- Associated Press - Friday, January 1, 2016

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - People with hepatitis C who drink alcohol or stop using their medications would lose Medicaid coverage under a proposal approved by a Kansas legislative committee.

The KanCare Oversight Committee also recommended this week that the Kansas Department of Health and Safety begin using step therapy, which requires Medicaid patients to try cheaper treatments first and receive more expensive treatments only if the other medicines fail. State law currently forbids that practice.

Both proposals now go to the state health department, which will decide whether to forward them to the Legislature. Lawmakers would have to approve them before they became state practice, The Wichita Eagle reported (https://bit.ly/1mj77mQ ).

Sen. Jim Denning, R-Overland Park, suggested the proposals. He said the state should not have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a patient who doesn’t follow treatment plans for hepatitis C, a viral infection that gradually destroys the liver.

“If we have patients that are abusing an $80,000 drug, then there have to be consequences,” Denning said, who said the money could be used to treat children instead.

The committee’s two Democrats, Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, and Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, voted against the suggestion. Ward called it a “death sentence” for some people.

“Put me down as a ‘no’ for killing people,” he said.

Ward said the proposal is worded so vaguely private insurance companies that provide the state’s Medicaid services would have too much power to decide who receives treatment.

When asked what would make a person noncompliant, Denning said he couldn’t name everything but alcohol abuse was an example.

Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, R-Shawnee, said people have other options besides Medicaid and a person who uses alcohol or drugs made a choice to ignore medical protocols.

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Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, https://www.kansas.com

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