The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is reportedly out of money to treat 180,000 veterans who have hepatitis C and has made plans to shift them to private payers, according to the Arizona Republic. The VA had set aside $700 million for such treatment, but the cost of the new drugs and the high demand has quickly wiped out the budget.
Drawing criticism from internal directors, the VA plans to tap into a program known as the Choice Plan, which was intended to help veterans who are unable to get timely treatment in VA facilities seek care from other providers. Officials are reportedly questioning whether outsourcing hepatitis C treatment is a legal use of the Choice funds and are concerned about how the plan will be implemented and how many veterans will ultimately have access to treatment.
The VA pays $600 per course of treatment for the newer hepatitis C drugs, a substantial discount off the retail price, and has cured as many patients with the new drugs in the past year and half as it did during the past 15 years.