Hepatitis C Tests, Treatment for New Jersey Prison Inmates Could Cost State More Than $8 Million Per Year
A New Jersey program to pay for hepatitis C tests and treatment for prison inmates could cost between $4.5 million and $8 million this year, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports (Fazlollah/Lin, Philadelphia Inquirer, 1/12). Under the program, launched on Nov. 1, 2002, New Jersey covers the cost of hepatitis C tests, treatment and additional staff required to administer the program as part of an agreement with prison health care provider Correctional Medical Services. Ralph Siegel, a spokesperson for the state Department of the Treasury, said last November that he could not estimate the cost of the program (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/1/02). According to estimates in recent CMS memos and e-mails obtained by the Inquirer, the program would cost about $4.5 million per year in the event that New Jersey decided to test 25% of the state's 26,000 inmates for hepatitis C. The cost would increase to $8.5 million per year in the event that the state decided to test 75% of the inmates. About 1,407 New Jersey inmates had tested positive for hepatitis C as of Dec. 4, a 20% increase over a five-month period. CMS officials said that about 40 to 60 inmates test positive for the disease each month, and thousands of inmates remain untested. The Inquirer reports that the New Jersey prison system has taken only "small steps" to provide treatment for inmates with hepatitis C and that many problems "persist." For example, the state's computer system cannot track hepatitis C cases because of "problems with consistency and completeness" in reports from physicians. Inmates also have said that CMS officials have "actively discouraged" inmates from having liver biopsies performed to "help determine if [an inmate] will benefit" from treatment; the biopsies are required by law, the Inquirer reports (Philadelphia Inquirer, 1/12).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.