Newspaper article

Despite Public Health Warnings, Most Baby Boomers Remain Untested for Hepatitis C

Newspaper article

Despite Public Health Warnings, Most Baby Boomers Remain Untested for Hepatitis C

Article excerpt

It's been four years since a U.S. government advisory panel recommended that all baby boomers get tested for the hepatitis C virus (HCV).

And it's been one year since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that deaths from hepatitis C had reached an all-time high in the United States -- and that baby boomers were at greatest risk.

Maybe last year's CDC startling report spurred more baby boomers to request a one-time HIV blood test from their doctors. But the earlier recommendation from the advisory panel -- the usually influential U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) -- appears to have had little impact. For, according to a study released Wednesday in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, hepatitis C testing among baby boomers increased only slightly in the two years after the USPSTF's recommendation, from 12.3 percent in 2013 to 13.8 percent in 2015.

Of the estimated 76.2 million baby boomers (people born between 1945 and 1965), only 10.5 million have ever been tested for hepatitis C, the study found.

Individuals on Medicaid, Medicaid plus Medicare or military insurance were more likely to have been tested than people with private health insurance. HCV testing was also more common among men, college graduates and people who lived with someone who had been diagnosed with the disease.

Those findings are based on an analysis of responses from almost 24,000 baby boomers who took part in the annual National Health Interview Survey.

"Prevalence of HCV testing among baby boomers did not substantially increase and remains low two years after the USPSTF recommendation in 2013," the study's authors write. "These findings underscore the need for increased awareness for HCV testing among healthcare providers and baby boomers and other innovative strategies such as state-mandated HCV testing."

A 'silent' disease

The study was not designed to determine why so few baby boomers are getting tested for hepatitis C, but the authors cite barriers to preventive care, incomplete insurance coverage and a lack of awareness among physicians about the USPSTF recommendations as possible reasons. …

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