The CMS has finalized its decision to cover hepatitis B virus screening for Medicare beneficiaries following a recommendation from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.
A screening test would be covered for asymptomatic beneficiaries who are deemed high-risk for a hepatitis B infection. The agency defines this population as those born in countries and regions with a high prevalence of infection.
Asian and Pacific Islanders make up 5% of the U.S. population but account for more than 50% of Americans living with hepatitis B, according to the CMS.
Also included in the high-risk category are U.S.-born persons not vaccinated as infants whose parents were born in regions with a very high prevalence of hepatitis B infection, HIV-positive persons, men who have sex with men, intravenous drug users, sexual partners of persons infected with hepatitis B and pregnant women. Advertised costs for diagnostic tests range from $50 to $200.
The decision comes two years after the CMS finalized its decision to screen for hepatitis C in Medicare beneficiaries.
An estimated 1.2 million people in the U.S. live with chronic hepatitis B, and up to 25% of them develop serious, even fatal liver problems.
The U.S. death rate for persons with hepatitis B infection in 2010 was an estimated 0.5% per 100,000. The highest death rates occurred in mostly male and minority persons aged 55 to 64 years old, according to federal data.