NASHVILLE, (April 7, 2017) — General Assembly committees worked at full steam this week as two more of the Senate’s standing committees, the Education and Commerce and Labor Committees, completed their work for the 2017 legislative session. The General Assembly is looking at wrapping up the session by the second week of May.
Human Trafficking — Among bills advancing this week are two bills that I am sponsoring addressing human trafficking. Senate Bill 553 adds “trafficking for a commercial sex act” within the definition of “child sexual abuse” and “severe child abuse” under Tennessee law. Including child sex trafficking within this section of Tennessee law ensures that child welfare can intervene and provide services in cases that involve any form of commercial sexual exploitation of children.
The legislation also changes the definition of “caregiver” in state law to allow victims to receive child welfare intervention. The changes proposed in the bill would help ensure that child sex trafficking victims are properly identified and that child welfare does not face barriers in responding to these young victims. Bringing child sex trafficking within the definition of abuse facilitates a protective, coordinated, and consistent response to this form of sexual abuse.
The legislation was based on recommendations I received from Shared Hope International. Shared Hope International estimates that the most common age a child enters sex trafficking is age 14 to 16.
Similarly, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee approved Senate Bill 552 which I am sponsoring to establish a pilot program tailoring treatment specifically for minor victims of human trafficking. The program would allow the Department of Children’s Services (DCS) to gather data to know what types of services best serve these young and vulnerable victims.
Cancer Treatment Fairness Act — I am very pleased our human trafficking bills are advancing and look forward to their passage. Unfortunately, this was not the case with legislation I am sponsoring designed to address barriers to care for cancer medications that come in the form of a pill. I moved the bill to the first calendar in the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee to keep the legislation alive and am very hopeful that we can come to an agreement by that time.
I vividly remember sitting beside other patients during my hours of chemotherapy treatments watching them get sick. An IV treatment can take six to eight hours, and as I was going though that process, I realized that for many patients it might be easier for them to take a pill at home.
Traditionally, cancer treatments have been delivered through an IV or injection and are covered under a patient’s medical benefit, resulting in a moderate, flat cost-share. Oral treatments, on the other hand, are usually covered under a health plan’s pharmacy benefit, where patients often face high out-of-pocket costs. This disparity in coverage can prevent many cancer patients from taking full advantage of today’s innovative medical advancements.
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, can have 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 with no treatment alternatives.
Unfortunately, Tennessee is one of only 7 states in the country that doesn’t have a level playing field for cancer patients when it comes to the patient’s out-of-pocket cost of treatment.
I appreciate the strong support we have for this bill from the people of this district. As lawmakers, we should do our part to support medical advancements that can save lives by leveling the playing field for patients when it comes to out-of-pocket cost.
This legislation is a reasonable update to an antiquated health care structure. I will continue to push for passage in the Senate in 2018.