While cancer patients are busy fighting for their lives, it is essential that their elected officials in Congress are fighting for their right to access needed treatments. We are lucky that Sen. Tina Smith has made advocating on behalf of cancer patients a priority in her agenda.
Earlier this year, Smith co-sponsored a bill in the Senate that would require insurance companies to treat oral chemotherapy prescriptions as the same as the conventional chemo IV method. Currently, insurance companies include the oral anti-cancer treatments under prescription plans which are subject to high copays that insurers pass on to patients. On the other hand, traditional IV chemotherapy is often classified as a medical benefit and does not typically have a high copay.
We know that oral chemotherapy is a gamechanger in advancing cancer treatments. Oral medications are less intrusive and allow patients to undergo their treatment on their own time and in their own homes. For many patients, oral medication can be more effective, and in some cases, the only available treatment option.
Senate Bill 741, The Cancer Drug Parity Act, which was cosponsored by a bipartisan group of senators, will ensure that all cancer treatments are treated the same by insurance companies. This is currently the law in 43 states, including Minnesota — but it is essential that this is passed at the federal level to protect those with federally regulated plans.
Patients should not be forced to choose a less appropriate or effective treatment simply because an insurer provides less coverage for a cancer drug that happens to be administered by mouth rather than intravenously.
These options save lives
With new cancer treatment advancements being made at a rapid pace, it is essential that health insurance companies keep up and make these options as available as possible. These new treatment options save lives, and if this bill becomes law, it will enable even more lives to be saved.
Cancer patients are some of the most vulnerable people in our society, and we applaud Sen. Smith for standing up for a bill that could ease unnecessary cost burdens. We respectfully call for the other members of the Minnesota delegation to join Smith in this endeavor.
David Egan and Charlene Plitman are the co-executive directors of Susan G. Komen® Minnesota.
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