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“The only thing necessary for these diseases to the triumph is for good people and governments to do nothing.”

 

Veterans Comprehensive Hepatitis C Health Care Act (Introduced in Senate)

S 1847 IS

108th CONGRESS

1st Session

S. 1847

To amend title 38, United States Code, to establish a comprehensive program for testing and treatment of veterans for the Hepatitis C virus.

IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

November 11, 2003

Mr. CORZINE introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs


A BILL

To amend title 38, United States Code, to establish a comprehensive program for testing and treatment of veterans for the Hepatitis C virus.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

  

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the `Veterans Comprehensive Hepatitis C Health Care Act'.

SEC. 2. COMPREHENSIVE HEPATITIS C HEALTH CARE TESTING AND TREATMENT PROGRAM FOR VETERANS.

(a) IN GENERAL- Chapter 17 of title 38, United States Code, is amended by inserting after section 1720E the following new section:

`Sec. 1720F. Hepatitis C testing and treatment

`(a) INITIAL TESTING- (1) During the one-year period beginning on the date of the enactment of the Veterans Comprehensive Hepatitis C Health Care Act, the Secretary shall provide a blood test for the Hepatitis C virus to--

`(A) each veteran who served in the active military, naval, or air service during the Vietnam era or who is considered to be `at risk,' and is enrolled to receive care under section 1710 of this title who requests the test or is otherwise receiving a physical examination or any care or treatment from the Secretary; and

`(B) to any other veteran who requests the test.

`(2) After the end of the period referred to in paragraph (1), the Secretary shall provide a blood test for the Hepatitis C virus to any veteran who requests the test.

`(b) FOLLOWUP TESTING AND TREATMENT- In the case of any veteran who tests positive for the Hepatitis C virus, the Secretary--

`(1) shall provide such followup tests as are considered medically appropriate; and

`(2) shall provide appropriate treatment for that veteran in accordance with the national protocol for the treatment of Hepatitis C .

`(c ) STATUS OF CARE- (1) Treatment shall be provided under subsection (b) without regard to whether the Hepatitis C virus is determined to be service-connected and without regard to priority group categorization of the veteran. No copayment may be charged for treatment under subsection (b), and no third-party reimbursement may be sought or accepted, under section 1729 of this title or any other provision of law, for testing or treatment under subsection (a) or (b).

`(2) Paragraph (1) shall cease to be in effect upon the effective date of a determination by the Secretary or by Congress that the occurrence of the Hepatitis C virus in specified veterans shall be presumed to be service-connected.

`(d) STAFFING- (1) The Secretary shall require that each Department medical center employ at least one full-time gastroenterologist, hepatologist, or other qualified physician to provide tests and treatment for the Hepatitis C virus under this section.

`(2) The Secretary shall, to the extent practicable, ensure that each Department medical center has at least one staff member assigned to work, in coordination with Hepatitis C medical personnel, to coordinate treatment options for Hepatitis C patients and provide information and counseling for those patients and their families. Such a staff member should preferably be trained in psychology or psychiatry or be a social worker.

`(3) In order to improve treatment provided to veterans with the Hepatitis C virus, the Secretary shall provide increased training options to Department health care personnel.'.

(b) CLERICAL AMENDMENT- The table of sections at the beginning of such chapter is amended by inserting after the item relating to section 1720E the following new item:

  

`1720F. Hepatitis C testing and treatment.'.

SEC. 3. FUNDING FOR HEPATITIS C PROGRAMS OF THE DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS.

(a) PROGRAM ACCOUNT- Beginning with fiscal year 2004, amounts appropriated for the Department of Veterans Affairs for Hepatitis C detection and treatment shall be provided, within the `Medical Care' account, through the `Specific Purpose' subaccount, rather than the `VERA' subaccount.

(b) ALLOCATION OF FUNDS TO VISNS- In allocating funds appropriated for the Department of Veterans Affairs for the `Medical Care' account to the Veterans Integrated Service Networks, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall allocate funds for detection and treatment of the Hepatitis C virus based upon incidence rates of that virus among veterans (rather than based upon the overall population of veterans) in each such network.

(c ) LIMITATION ON USE OF FUNDS- Amounts appropriated for the Department of Veterans Affairs for Hepatitis C detection and treatment through the `Specific Purpose' subaccount may not be used for any other purpose.

SEC. 4. NATIONAL POLICY.

(a) STANDARDIZED NATIONWIDE POLICY- The Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall develop and implement a standardized policy to be applied throughout the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system with respect to the Hepatitis C virus. The policy shall include the testing protocol for the Hepatitis C virus, treatment options, education and notification efforts, and establishment of a specific Hepatitis C diagnosis code for measurement and treatment purposes.

(b) OUTREACH- The Secretary shall, on an annual basis, take appropriate actions to notify veterans who have not been tested for the Hepatitis C virus of the need for such testing and the availability of such testing from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

SEC. 5. HEPATITIS C CENTERS OF EXCELLENCE.

(a) ESTABLISHMENT- The Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall establish at least one, and not more than three, additional Hepatitis C centers of excellence or additional sites at which activities of Hepatitis C centers of excellence are carried out. Each such additional center or site shall be established at a Department of Veterans Affairs medical center in one of the five geographic service areas (known as a Veterans Integrated Service Network) with the highest case rate of Hepatitis C in fiscal year 1999.

(b) FUNDING- Funding for the centers or sites established under subsection (a) shall be provided from amounts available to the Central Office of the Department of Veterans Affairs and shall be in addition to amounts allocated for Hepatitis C pursuant to section 3.