The state of Delaware said Tuesday that it would phase in a new policy to treat all hepatitis C patients in its Medicaid program.

States have been under pressure from the Obama Administration and lawsuits – in Delaware’s case, Harvard Law School’s Center for Health Law Policy Innovation had threatened litigation – to abandon money-saving policies that limited treatment with effective but costly new medications to the sickest patients.

More than three million Americans are estimated to be infected with hepatitis C, a bloodborne virus that may cause no symptoms for decades but is the leading cause of liver cancer and transplants.

Delaware, like New Jersey, currently requires evidence of signficant liver damage before approving treatment. Its new policy lifts that bar slightly, effective Jan. 1, 2017. A year after that, all infected patients will be eligible for treatment.

A handful of other states have made similar policy changes. An advisory committee in Pennsylvania last month recommended that the state Medicaid program treat all patients as well; a decision has not been made.

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Delaware will treat all Medicaid patients with hepatitis C
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