HFI Connect - Hepatitis

Port Aransas man with hep c fights insurance company

A Port Aransas man is literally fighting for his life.

Richard Titus, 56, has been duking it out with his health insurance company to cover a treatment that could save his life.

Titus recently discovered he has Hepatitis C, a liver infection caused by the Hepatitis C virus.

Symptoms of the virus include: fatigue, nausea/poor appetite, stomach pain, dark-colored urine, yellow discoloration in the skin and eyes, fever, and muscle and joint pain.

Titus, like most Hepatitis C patients, had no symptoms. He found out he had the disease when his doctor ran some tests. Titus then went to Dr. Edison Rodrigues, a local hepatologist who treats people with Hepatitis C.

"You'll see the inflammation of the liver and the liver enzymes start going up," said Dr. Rodrigues.

Although it's potentially deadly, the virus can live in your body for years. In some cases, the body can even rid itself of Hepatitis C. But, if the disease progresses and the patient doesn't seek treatment, it can lead to serious health problems. However, there is a cure.

The controversial drug, Harvoni, has an over 90 percent cure rate. But it's also really expensive; the treatment is about $95,000. Titus tried to get his health insurance company, UnitedHealthcare, to cover the cost of Harvoni. In February, UnitedHealthcare denied his request because he didn't meet the criteria.

In a statement to KRIS 6 News, UnitedHealth said, "…our clinical coverage criteria is consistent with clinical evidence to prioritize treatment based upon the progression of the disease, i.e., treating the sickest patients first, and monitoring patients with early stage disease, and treating them if and when they progress."

Although Titus has Genotype 1 Hepatitis C, he's still in the early stages. But he didn't want to wait to get treatment.

"I want to live. I want to be healthy. I want my liver to be cured now, not when it's almost impossible to cure and then be put on the liver transplant list," explained Titus.

After months of waiting, Titus found a way to get Harvoni on his own. That was before UnitedHealthcare agreed to cover the medication.

"It's right here and they haven't paid for it. So, it's too late," said Titus.

Now, Titus wants to take legal action against UnitedHealthcare.

"You shouldn't deny any client's help when they're sick," stated Titus.

Titus hopes other people in a similar situation keep health care companies accountable and fight to stay healthy.

"Fight for your rights. Stand up," said Titus.

If you've been diagnosed with Hepatitis C and your insurance denies coverage for Harvoni, you can seek help from the drug's manufacturer, Gilead Sciences.

It has something called the Patient Assistance Program, which may cover a portion of your treatment.

You can find more information, here: www.gilead.com/responsibili...