Just weeks after the Institute of Medicine (IOM) blasted the federal government for its failure to respond to the nation's viral hepatitis epidemic, the Administration has continued a pattern of neglect with its 2011 budget proposal. In calling for an inadequate funding increase of $1.8 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Division of Viral Hepatitis, the Administration has shortchanged five million Americans afflicted with chronic viral hepatitis and has failed to translate the IOM's recommendations into decisive action, the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable (NVHR) said today.
NVHR is a coalition of more than 150 public, private, and voluntary organizations dedicated to reducing the incidence of infection, morbidity, and mortality from chronic viral hepatitis that afflicts more than 5 million Americans. www.nvhr.org
"While the Administration's proposed $1.8 million increase for the Division of Viral Hepatitis is better than we have seen in years, its budget proposal ultimately shortchanges more than five million Americans afflicted with chronic viral hepatitis," said Ms. Lorren Sandt, Chair of the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable (NVHR) and Executive Director of Caring Ambassadors Program, based in Portland, OR. "Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle have mobilized to address the chronic viral hepatitis crisis and we need a commensurate response from the Administration. We are hopeful that the bipartisan Honda-Dent legislation (HR 3974) will provide a rational starting point for how best to fund the needs of five million Americans afflicted with chronic viral hepatitis."
The CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, Sexually Transmitted Disease, and Tuberculosis Prevention (NCHHSTP) is the umbrella federal agency overseeing the Division of Viral Hepatitis (DVH). While still inadequate, the Administration's FY 2011 budget proposal released yesterday is a marked improvement from last year's meager $51,000 increase the Administration proposed for the DVH's viral hepatitis, prevention, treatment, and surveillance programs. Perhaps most tellingly, the Administration's total 2011 budget proposal for DVH of $21 million is still less than the $25 million in annual funding that was allocated ten years ago. Meanwhile, the depth and breadth of this crisis has only worsened.
With roughly 1 in 50 Americans afflicted with chronic viral hepatitis B or C - and an overwhelming majority unaware they are infected - millions of Americans are at risk, especially African Americans and Asian Americans. Without detection and treatment, chronic viral hepatitis leads to liver cancer, cirrhosis, or liver failure. In the absence of federal leadership, the research firm Milliman estimates that public and private payers' cost of treating chronic viral hepatitis C alone will more than triple by 2024 to $85 billion. Medicare and Medicaid would absorb a disproportionate share of these added costs.
Last month, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) issued a landmark report finding that the federal government has failed to provide adequate resources for national and local prevention, control, and surveillance programs for chronic viral hepatitis. As a result, the IOM made nearly two-dozen recommendations for improving our nation's public health infrastructure. Regrettably, the Administration's budget all but ignores these expert recommendations.
In contrast to the Administration's indifference, bipartisan legislation, "The Viral Hepatitis and Liver Cancer Control and Prevention Act," sponsored by Representatives Mike Honda (D-Calif.), Charles Dent (R-Pa.) and 21 other House Members would provide $90 million in funding in 2011 and beyond. The Honda-Dent legislation would increase the ability of the CDC to support state health departments in their prevention, immunization and surveillance, and referral to care efforts. Much of the Honda-Dent legislation tracks with the IOM's recommendations.
"The Administration's budget proposal is only the first step in a long process," added Ms. Sandt. "We urge Congress to close the funding gap through the appropriations process. Until the Administration and Congress come together to take decisive, bipartisan action to address the chronic viral hepatitis crisis, NVHR and the entire viral hepatitis community will continue to sound the alarm from coast to coast. We are not going away and we will not be ignored."