Sen. Bill Ketron and Rep. William Lamberth address cost parity among treatments
NASHVILLE – Today Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) and Representative William Lamberth (R-Cottontown) introduced Senate Bill 2091 / House Bill 2239, the Cancer Treatment Fairness Act, to ensure that cancer patients are able to get the most medically appropriate treatment, as decided between the physician and patient.
Traditional treatments are usually given through an IV or injection and are covered under health care benefits resulting in a small co-pay or no cost at all to patients. Oral treatments are usually part of the health plan’s pharmacy benefit and result in high out-of-pocket costs for patients. This disparity is a result of our laws not keeping up with scientific advancements, which can negatively impact patients taking their medication as prescribed.
“I’ve seen firsthand what treatment options can mean when you’re fighting cancer,” Sen. Ketron said. “As lawmakers, we should do our part to support medical advancements that can save lives in leveling the playing field for patients when it comes to cost.”
Scientists are finding more innovative ways to treat cancer, but in Tennessee our laws aren’t always allowing patients to take advantage of those benefits. Oral anti-cancer medications, which are often available in a pill form, directly attack cancer cells and often with fewer side effects than traditional therapies. More than 25 percent of new anti-cancer treatments in the research pipeline are in oral form, making patient-administered therapies an increasingly important component of cancer treatment. For a number of cancers, oral anti-cancer medications are actually already the standard of care.
“It is important to note that this bill is not an insurance mandate,” Rep. Lamberth said. “We aren’t proposing to mandate coverage of oral chemotherapy. We are merely saying that if a health plan does cover cancer treatment that patients’ out-of-pocket cost should be the same no matter how the treatment is administered.”
Studies show that oral anti-cancer therapies, when compared with those administered intravenously, not only help decrease overall health care costs, but they also reduce work loss costs, and improve the quality of life for patients.
Today 40 states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation that equalizes the cost of oral anti-cancer medications with traditional treatments for patients.