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Re: Social Security Reform for HCV and Other Liver Diseases

As my representative, you should know liver disease is one of the major killers in America today.

Hepatitis C alone has been called a "silent epidemic" by former surgeon general Everett Koop, MD and it is estimated that as many as 4 million Americans are infected.

The death rate due to complications from this disease is expected to quadruple in the next 10 years.

There is no known cure and current treatment has an inadequate success rate, even by physician standards (while often causing debilitating side effects).

Hepatitis is the number one cause for liver transplants and those numbers are rising exponentially.

A study presented at the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases meeting on Tuesday November 9, 1999 concluded that long-term damage from hepatitis C infections may cost the U.S. economy more than $81 billion by 2019.

The study, by researchers from the New England Medical Center and Tufts University School of Medicine, looked at what costs can be expected in the ten years from 2010 to 2019 as a result of the long-term effects of hepatitis C infections.

It found that the medical costs of treating such liver damage as cirrhosis and cancer would total at least $10.3 billion in those ten years. The study used a computer model to estimate the level of disease and death expected in the same time period (2010-2019) from existing and future infections.

Most people infected by the virus do not notice any symptoms until serious liver damage starts 20 years or so later, although testing can detect the infection and lead to early treatment.

Productivity lost to the work force from hepatitis C complications and death would equal another $71.5 billion, the researchers, led by Dr John Wong, said. There should be more consideration for speedier approval of claims by liver disease patients. They are often debilitated to the degree they can no longer work or hold a job.

"Our results suggest that hepatitis C will be an awakening health issue that should be addressed now," Wong said in his paper.

I am requesting that you investigate this important area of public health and sponsor or co-sponsor legislation to speed up the approval process for individual claims by the Social Security Administration in regard to this issue.

Thank you for your attention and consideration in this serious matter.


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