Chronic liver disease affects more than 1.5 percent of adults in the United States, which equates to about 4 million Americans. Liver disease can result in a number of health issues that can cause serious complications. Medicare can help provide coverage for the screening, diagnosis, and treatment of chronic liver disease.

What is Chronic Liver Disease? 
The liver plays a critical role in the body and serves many different functions. It is located on the right side of your body about halfway up your midsection. One of the main functions of the liver is detoxification. The body sends blood through the liver, and this organ is responsible for filtering out any hazardous or unwanted materials. These waste products can either be ingested or created from the body’s own processes. Some of these potential toxins can include ammonia and alcohol.

The liver is also responsible for storing energy that can be released and used by the body as needed. This organ stores various vitamins, including vitamins A, D, E, and K. The liver also stores glycogen, which is composed of sugars and can be digested to create energy. This glycogen can be released into the body when needed.

A third main function of the liver is the production of bile. Bile is critical in the digestive process, and it is necessary for digesting fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. Without bile, the intestines would not be able to effectively bind to and digest these nutrients, limiting absorption and leading to malnutrition.

Chronic liver disease occurs when the liver becomes damaged and can no longer function as effectively. The liver may become damaged and build up scar tissue, which does not serve any functional purpose for the body. Continued buildup can result in liver disease and potential malfunctioning.

Hepatitis A, B, and C and certain autoimmune diseases, like biliary cirrhosis, can lead to chronic liver disease. Genetic disorders, high alcohol intake, obesity, various cancers, and fatty liver disease can all increase risk for liver disease.

How is Chronic Liver Disease Treated? 
Correctly diagnosing liver disease generally requires a wide array of testing. This can include blood tests, CT or MRI imaging scans, and liver biopsies to examine the tissue itself. Continued testing is sometimes required as well to monitor disease progress and asses your overall health and any complications.

Treatment can vary from person to person. Sometimes, only lifestyle changes must be made, including starting a diet and weight loss regimen, increasing physical activity levels, and eliminating alcohol intake. In other cases, prescription medications may be recommended to aid in recovery and reduce side effects.

Medicare Coverage Options for Chronic Liver Disease 
Medicare recipients are generally covered by both Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B. Part A helps cover the costs of inpatient care, like hospital stays and the testing and procedures that are completed while you are formally admitted into a Medicare-approved hospital.

Part B covers outpatient expenses, such as doctor’s visits, medical supplies, and other testing. Part B can also help with obesity screening and counseling to address weight-related complications. If alcoholism is a major contributor, inpatient facility stays may be covered. Counseling sessions afterwards can be included in care as well. You will likely pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount, and the Part B deductible will apply.

Medicare Part D prescription drug plans can also be beneficial in some treatments for chronic liver disease treatment. If you have Original Medicare, you can enroll in a stand-alone Prescription Drug Plan (PDP). Many Medicare recipients choose to get their benefits through a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan. MA plans are offered by private insurance companies and are required to provide at least the same coverage as Original Medicare, but many offer additional benefits.

Related articles:

What is Medicare Parts A & B

Medicare Part D: Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage