Louisiana HCV program cuts costs – and hassles


Louisiana physicians who treat Medicaid patients for hepatitis C will see less administrative burden under an arrangement approved by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

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Beginning July 15, physicians will no longer have to seek prior authorization or preauthorization to prescribe the authorized generic version of Epclusa (sofosbuvir/velpatasvir) to any Medicaid patient with hepatitis C. There will be no forms to file.

The change comes as part of a supplemental rebate agreement approved June 26 by CMS. That same day, Louisiana announced a deal with Asegua Therapeutics, a wholly owned subsidiary of Epclusa maker Gilead, that essentially caps the annual cost to the state for treating hepatitis C in incarcerated patients and Medicaid recipients.

State officials estimate about 39,000 Louisianans fit those criteria; the goal of the program is to cure at least 31,000 of them by the time the 5-year agreement expires.

“This new model has the potential to save many lives and improve the health of our citizens,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) said in a statement. “Asegua was willing to come to the table to work with us to help Louisiana residents and we are pleased to initiate this 5-year partnership. Ultimately our goal is to eliminate this disease in Louisiana, and we have taken a big step forward in that effort.”

The agreement was designed to change very little in terms of the mechanics of how Medicaid managed care organizations, which cover most of the state’s Medicaid population and handle coverage and claims. The biggest change is that, when a spending cap is reached, Asegua will rebate 100% excess costs to the state. Louisiana officials did not disclose what the annual financial caps were as part of the agreement.

“We really thought it was important to leave the system – as much as possible – intact because we think that is going to make us most successful,” Alex Billioux, MD, of the Louisiana Department of Health said in an interview. “We think it leverages existing patient relationships and existing [Medicaid managed care organization] care management responsibilities.”

He added that, by keeping current processes unchanged, “it takes what is an otherwise very complicated arrangement with the state and makes it a little simpler.”

Patients will see no change in terms of copayments for the approved generic topping out at $3 depending on income level as they would have prior to the agreement. The biggest difference for them is that “people who couldn’t be treated are now going to have access to those prescriptions,” Dr. Billioux said.

Some cautious optimism surrounds this kind of arrangement and the potential effect it can have on the affected population.

“Innovation geared to improve access to hepatitis C treatment is critical, particularly in areas like Louisiana where treatment rates for Medicaid patients have been very low,” Robert Brown, MD, member of the American Liver Foundation’s National Medical Advisory Committee and hepatologist at Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, said. “If we can enhance patient access to treatment, we know we will improve health outcomes. However, it is too early to tell if this innovation will be a success. At the end of the day, the number of additional patients cured will determine if this was the right approach.”

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