As we age, our routine medical appointments tend to become filled with preventative testing. As part of the age-based checklist of screenings, the CDC urges seniors to add a simple blood test for hepatitis C. An early diagnosis of HCV allows for highly effective treatments that slow or stop the damage to the liver.
What Is Hep C?
HCV is a virus that adversely affects the liver. Unlike the strains Hepatitis A and B, there is no vaccine for the Hepatitis C virus (HCV). It is transmitted through contact with the blood of an infected person, but is largely asymptomatic. Because symptoms are barely noticeable or completely absent, most people infected with the virus are entirely unaware they have it. HCV was once an untreatable condition, but recent medical advancements have shown the ability to cure the disease.
Seniors Should Get Tested
The CDC specifically recommends that baby boomers (individuals born between 1945 and 1965) receive HCV testing because this generation is at an increased risk of infection. According to CDC data, three in four people with hepatitis C were born during this 20-year span. Transmission of the virus was highest during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, before widespread infection control procedures were adopted and before donated blood, blood products, and organs were screened for blood-borne diseases. Awareness of the presence of HCV allows for the development of a treatment plan and lifestyle modifications so that you can take control of your health.
How to Get Tested
Screening for HCV only requires a blood test, but it typically isn’t included in routine bloodwork. You’ll need to speak with your doctor before your lab appointment to make sure the test is added to your order.
Does My Insurance Cover This Test?
Since the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force now recommends Hepatitis C screening for all baby boomers, Medicare and most private health insurance policies and state Medicaid programs cover the test.
Original Medicare covers a one-time screening for beneficiaries who:
- Were born between 1945 and 1965; OR
- Received a blood transfusion before 1992; OR
- Are at high risk of infection due to current or past history of illicit injection drug use.
For those at higher risk of infection or exposure, annual repeat testing may also be covered by Medicare.
Advancements in Hepatitis Treatment
If caught early enough, most infected individuals are able to receive treatment to clear the virus from their system and prevent progressive damage to the liver. In addition to the standard antiviral therapy available to HCV positive individuals, new drugs on the market with higher cure rates and shorter courses of treatment give patients renewed hope. Get tested and begin the potentially lifesaving treatment.