USPSTF Releases Draft Hepatitis B Screening Recommendations

You Can Support These Lifesaving Guidelines By Making Public Comment!
On February 10, 2014, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) released its long awaited draft recommendations on hepatitis B screening of non-pregnant adolescents and adults. You can read the draft and the reasoning behind the recommendations here.

The draft recommends (with a “B” grade) testing everyone who is at high risk for hepatitis B infection.  The USPSTF defines high risk as those born in countries with 2% or greater prevalence of hepatitis B, those born in the United States who were not vaccinated against hepatitis B in infancy and whose parents were born in a country with a high prevalence of hepatitis B, persons who inject drugs, HIV positive individuals, men who have sex with men, and household contacts or sexual partners of those who have hepatitis B infection.

This draft is welcome news, as the current USPSTF recommendation is a “D” grade(not recommended) for hepatitis B screening of anyone except pregnant women. Hepatitis B screening of pregnant women is already recommended by the USPSTF. The “D” grade has harmed efforts to identify the estimated 65% of people who have chronic hepatitis B but don’t know it. The USPSTF now recognizes the importance of screening those at risk and linking them to care and treatment to help avoid advanced liver disease and liver cancer. This is particularly important for reaching Asian Americans, who are disproportionately impacted by chronic hepatitis B.

USPSTF recommendations are extremely important as they increase awareness, influence medical providers, and ensure that recommended services are covered by most private and public payers. Under the Affordable Care Act, any preventive service with an “A” or “B” grade must be covered with no copayment by most private insurers and by all expanded Medicaid programs. Additionally, if Medicare offers the service, it also must be free of charge to the patient.

You can help make sure the draft “B” grade stays in the final recommendations by submitting public comment. You can write brief statement of support for the recommendations with a message about why screening those at risk for hepatitis B is important to you, your community, or people you serve. Public comment is being accepted until 5 pm Eastern, March 10, 2014, and you can submit your comments here.

If you need help crafting your message, contact Ryan Clary.