Sens. Bailey Hutchison, Kennedy Introduce Bill To Create National Hepatitis C Plan
Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) on Friday introduced a bill (S 1143) that represents the "first federal response to the hepatitis C epidemic" -- the most common bloodborne viral infection in the United States -- according to a National Hepatitis C Advocacy Council release (National Hepatitis C Advocacy Council release, 5/24). The legislation would permit HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson to "develop and implement" a national treatment and prevention plan aimed at increasing hepatitis C awareness, creating screening and counseling programs and funding research to develop a hepatitis C vaccine. Four million people in the United States are infected with hepatitis C, and 10,000 die from complications of the disease each year; the hepatitis C death rate is expected to triple in the next 10 years. Bailey Hutchison said that the measure is based on Texas' successful hepatitis C program, adding, "By taking our state's program nationwide, we will help save lives and reduce the spread of this deadly infection through education, early detection and treatment" (Bailey Hutchison release, 5/23). NHCAC President Lorren Sandt said, "This is a major step in achieving a key goal of NHCAC: increasing financial and infrastructure support for the delivery of hepatitis C prevention, education, and patient care services at a level commensurate with the impact of this disease," adding, "Chronic hepatitis C is completely preventable with sound public health policy in place" (NHCAC release, 5/24).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.