July 28, 2011

Hepatitis Group Advocates for Virus Awareness and Importance of Medicare Part D

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., July 28, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Marking World Hepatitis Day, the Hepatitis Education Awareness & Liver Support of the South represents hepatitis patients and caregivers from across the Southeast in the nation's Capitol today. Promoting education and awareness, H.E.A.L.S. of the South emphasizes that proper treatment and access to medicines is critical to patients with liver disease. Safeguarding Medicare Part D is a national priority for patients who suffer from hepatitis. According to the World Health Organization, hepatitis viruses are a global health risk with 520 million people chronically infected with hepatitis B and C alone.

The H.E.A.L.S. team encourages Americans to get vaccinated for hepatitis A and B, and get tested for hepatitis C; it is a simple blood test that doctors perform with typical lab work. Most people don't realize the importance of getting tested because symptoms do not occur until the late stage of the disease.

"While members of the U.S. House and Senate are fighting over a solution for the debt ceiling, we are educating many in the United States about hepatitis," Pam Langford, executive director of H.E.A.L.S. of the South and member of the Medicare Rx Access Network of Florida, said. "This week we are in Washington D.C. for World Hepatitis Day to raise awareness of this disease and promote the preservation of Medicare Part D, as it is critical to so many hepatitis patients."

An analysis last week by the American Action Forum indicated that including Medicare Part D prescription drug rebates in the final debt ceiling package would increase monthly premiums by up to about 40 percent for more than 17 million seniors. This could hinder the success of the Medicare prescription drug program, in addition to increasing prescription drug costs for other Medicare beneficiaries and the general public.

Medicare Part D helps to make the cost of standard treatment regimens for hepatitis patients affordable. The program provides prescription coverage to 60 percent of seniors in the United States. Seniors have gained access to affordable medications as Medicare plans negotiate lower prices on their behalf.

In 2011, a Lewin Group study found that the Part D plans with the highest and second highest enrollment covered 99 and 94 percent, respectively, of the top drugs.

Today is the first official World Hepatitis Day celebrated by the WHO. World Hepatitis Day generates awareness and understanding of viral hepatitis and of the diseases it causes. World Hepatitis Day provides an opportunity to focus on prevention, screening and control of the disease.

H.E.A.L.S. of the South is a not-for-profit organization that advocates and educates the public, patients and the medical community about hepatitis.

SOURCE Hepatitis Education Awareness & Liver Support of the South