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TOPEKA – A legislative committee in Kansas tasked with combatting abuse in the KanCare system is getting much criticism after a voice vote passed early this month. Care for Hepatitis C, which affects nearly 3 million people in the United States, with nearly 30,000 new cases each year, was decided to be contingent on people not drinking alcohol or going off of their medications.

“If we have patients that are abusing an $80,000 drug, then there have to be consequences,” Sen. Jim Denning (R-Overland Park) told the Wichita Eagle.

Critics are saying it puts lawmakers out of touch with people addicted in the state, since the primary vehicle of transmission of the disease is through intravenous drug use – including heroin and methamphetamine . Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook (R-Shawnee) said people have other options besides Medicaid and a person who uses alcohol or drugs “made a choice to ignore medical protocols”.

Rep. Jim Ward (D-Wichita) called the move a “death sentence” and said “Put me down as a ‘no’ for killing people”.

Critics are now calling the committee a “death panel”, saying that addiction is also a disease that needs to be treated.

The decision will now go on to the Kansas Department of Health, and then the state legislature set to convene later this month.

Kansas, which ranks 35th in the nation for its number of breweries, is home to 30 and produces more than 36,248 barrels of beer there each year, boosting the state economy to the tune of $383 million.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cited over 73,000 deaths in 2014 from drugs, including prescription drugs, and alcohol.

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