Brown’s Budget Includes Funding for Costly Hepatitis C Treatment

California Healthline, Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Gov. Jerry Brown’s (D) proposed fiscal year 2015-2016 budget allocates about $300 million for high-cost drugs, including expensive medication to treat hepatitis C, Capital Public Radio’s “KXJZ News” reports (Bartolone, “KXJZ News,” Capital Public Radio, 1/12).

Background on Budget Plan

Last week, Brown released his $113.3 billion FY 2015-2016 budget proposal.

According to the budget, Medi-Cal will account for two-thirds of overall health and human services spending in the coming fiscal year. Medi-Cal is California’s Medicaid program.

Meanwhile, Brown’s office in a release also noted that unfunded liability in the state’s retiree health care programs currently is an estimated $72 billion. To address the unfunded liability, the budget plan proposes that “the state and its employees … share equally in the pre-funding of retiree health benefits, to be phased in as labor contracts come up for renewal.” The budget estimates that such a move would result in savings of nearly $200 billion over the next 50 years.

The proposal also includes continued funding for overtime pay for In-Home Supportive Services. Specifically, Brown’s proposal would end a 7% reduction in IHSS hours.

However, the proposal lacks funding to provide health coverage to undocumented immigrants in the state (California Healthline, 1/12).

Funding for Hepatitis C Treatment

A single drug regimen to treat hepatitis C costs about $85,000, but drugmakers say the medication cures 90% of patients with the illness (“KXJZ News,” Capital Public Radio, 1/12).

Gilead Sciences’ hepatitis C drug Sovaldi costs about $1,000 per pill and has been the subject of criticism from America’s Health Insurance Plans, as well as eliciting concern from physicians and federal researchers (California Healthline, 12/11/14).

However, while thousands of Californians — including low-income residents in the state’s prison system and Medi-Cal program — need the medication, few can afford it.

Rena Fox, a physician at UC-San Francisco, applauded the budget proposal for including money to help make hepatitis C treatments available to patients. Fox said, “The cost of the drugs is now making them unattainable for the majority of patients” (“KXJZ News,” Capital Public Radio, 1/12).

Source: California Healthline, Tuesday, January 13, 2015