By definition, hepatitis is inflammation of the liver, and most cases of hepatitis are caused by a viral infection. Non-viral hepatitis can also be caused by various factors, but most often, it is the result of abuse of drugs or alcohol. In cases of viral hepatitis, the condition may be spread through contact with matter that has been exposed to infected blood or other bodily fluids. Hepatitis A usually presents with few symptoms and can clear on its own, while hepatitis B often carries a greater risk of liver injury through the development of cirrhosis. Hepatitis C is another form of the disease that is spread through blood and often affects people who share needles or who have been injected with a non-sterile needle tainted with the virus.
What Are the Symptoms of Hepatitis?
Because hepatitis in all forms affects the liver, there are specific symptoms that present themselves in all cases. Most notably, people fighting a serious hepatitis infection will experience dark urine, jaundiced (yellow) skin or whites of the eyes, pale stool, stomach discomfort and abdominal pain. If the disease progresses, swelling in the abdomen can occur due to fluid buildup, and the infected individual may experience fatigue, itching and bleeding from the mouth or anus. In mild cases of hepatitis, there may be no symptoms at all, or symptoms may take years to present themselves if the condition becomes chronic.
Are There Vaccines for Hepatitis?
Currently, vaccines exist for certain types of hepatitis, but not for all. There is a vaccine for hepatitis A and hepatitis B, but there is no vaccine against hepatitis C. In non-viral cases, there are no available vaccines because vaccines only protect against viral infections. The best course of protection in these cases is to avoid the overuse of alcohol and to avoid illegal drugs. You should also follow all dosing instructions for any prescription medications to reduce the potential for developing non-viral hepatitis. Even over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) can cause hepatitis and liver failure when taken in large doses, especially in combination with alcohol.
Does Medicare Cover Hepatitis Vaccines?
Medicare insurance does offer coverage for some hepatitis vaccines and screenings. Under Medicare Part B coverage, recipients are able to receive medically necessary outpatient treatment to prevent disease, so standard vaccines are usually covered, including those for hepatitis. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C, so Medicare pays nothing toward vaccination in such cases; however, Medicare coverage does afford a one-time screening for hepatitis C if the procedure is ordered by a doctor when hepatitis C is suspected. This is most often ordered for older patients who were born between 1945 and 1965 or who have a history of drug use involving needles or needle sharing.
If treatment is needed for hepatitis through a prescription, Medicare Part D would likely cover the cost of medications as long as the drugs can be purchased from a retail pharmacy. If you have Original Medicare, you can enroll in a stand-alone Prescription Drug Plan (PDP), or, alternatively, you can enroll in a Medicare Advnantage plan that provides Part A, Part B, and additional benefits, such as prescription drugs.If a drug requires an injection or infusion to be completed at a medical clinic, Medicare insurance under Part B would be responsible for covering the expense.