WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Coalition to Improve Access to Cancer Care (CIACC) and its members from across the cancer patient and provider community today applauded Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS), Tina Smith (D-MN), Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) for introducing legislation to bring fairness to the way that cancer medications are covered by insurance companies. Additionally, the coalition praised the work of Representatives Higgins (D-NY 26), Guthrie (R-KY 2), Matsui (D-CA 6) and Bilarakis (R-FL 12) for sponsoring a House version of the legislation.
“The Cancer Drug Parity Act” will end the out of pocket cost disparity for certain cancer treatments based solely on how insurers classify that medicine. Currently, most insurance companies place traditional IV chemotherapy treatments under a patient’s medical benefit, while oral chemotherapy treatments are covered as part of a patient’s prescription drug benefit. Because of this discrepancy, patients on oral treatments can be forced to shoulder much higher out of pocket costs for their medications. For some cancers, oral medications are the only line of treatment.
“We are thrilled that this bi-partisan group of leaders in both the House and Senate have come together to help cancer patients ensure that they have affordable access to all available treatments,” said Robin Levy, Senior Director of Public Policy and Advocacy for the International Myeloma Foundation who chairs the Coalition to Improve Access to Cancer Care. “When passed into law, the Cancer Drug Parity Act will ensure that cancer patients—who are in the fight of their lives---don’t have to fight for the medications their oncologist prescribes.”
This legislation ensures that any health plan covering cancer care offer patients the same level of cost-sharing for all forms of cancer medicine.
“The exciting advancements in cancer research mean that many patients now can live with diseases that just a few years ago would have taken their life,” said Eunice Wang, MD, Chief of Leukemia at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, New York. “But the treatments we develop are only good if patients have access to them. We have to eliminate remaining loopholes to make sure all patients have proper insurance to equally cover oral medications that have revolutionized cancer treatment.”
“As providers, we are often forced to choose between the best treatment for patients, and what they can afford. This bill would eliminate the cost difference between self-administered and physician- or clinic-administered cancer drugs and allow physicians to prescribe the most appropriate chemotherapy for the patient,” said Ryan Bookout, a hematology/oncology pharmacist and president of the Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association.
CIACC has worked with local partners to enact legislation in 43 states and the District of Columbia to prevent insurance companies from applying different cost sharing rates to oral cancer medicine than they do to chemotherapy or other injected treatments. But those state laws address health plans regulated at the state level, and do not apply to more than half of the country with federally regulated health coverage. The Cancer Drug Parity Act would fix this disparity for all of those Americans.
About the Coalition to Improve Access to Cancer Care:
The Coalition for Improved Access to Cancer Care is a patient-focused organization representing patients, health-care professionals, care centers and industry committed to ensuring cancer patients have equal access to all approved cancer regimes, including (but not limited to) oral and intravenous drugs, injections, surgery, radiation, transplantation, etc. Follow us on Twitter @CancerCare4All.