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Sens. Franken, Kirk Fighting to Expand Access to Affordable Cancer Treatments

Senators Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Prevent Insurance Companies from Charging More for Certain Drugs

Friday, December 20, 2013

Today, U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) took a key step toward ensuring access to the best cancer treatments for patients across the country by unveiling a bipartisan bill to end the unfair practice of allowing insurance companies to charge more for certain chemotherapy drugs.

The Cancer Treatment Parity Act of 2013, authored and introduced by the Senators, would help give people battling cancer access to the treatments they need, when they need it. Nationwide, almost 14 million Americans are living with a cancer diagnosis, and more than 1.6 million new cases will be identified this year. But right now, many of these cancer patients can't access certain chemotherapy drugs because of misaligned insurance coverage policies that result in prohibitively high costs for some types of treatments.

The Senators' new legislation would fix the coverage issue by requiring all private insurance plans to provide similar access to patient-administered cancer drugs, such as those in pill form, and physician-administered cancer drugs, such as IV chemotherapy treatments.

"All cancer patients should have access to the treatment they need, when they need it," said Sen. Franken. "And insurance companies shouldn't be able to charge more for their cancer medication depending on whether it's a pill or comes from an IV. But unfortunately, that isn't always the case. Our bill builds on an already successful Minnesota law to help patients across the country afford the medication they need to battle this terrible disease."

"This bill will build upon state laws, like the one Illinois passed last year, to ensure that oral chemotherapy for patients is more affordable," Sen. Kirk said. "Over 1 million Americans will be diagnosed this year with cancer, and the sooner we are able to level the playing field for treatment options, the sooner these Americans and their families can receive the best type of treatment available."

To provide similar insurance coverage for all types of cancer medications, the Cancer Treatment Parity Act would:

• Build on state law by requiring all private health insurance plans to provide financial parity in coverage for physician-administered and patient-administered cancer treatments.

• Apply only to health plans that already cover chemotherapy. The law does not mandate that health plans provide chemotherapy coverage.

• Ensure that insurance cost-sharing schemes do not create barriers to cancer patients' ability to access potentially life-saving medicines.
The field of cancer treatments is shifting towards oral and other self-administered treatments. These drugs are highly effective, have low rates of side effects, fewer complications, and are easier for patients to use. And because self-administered chemotherapies are becoming the standard of care for many patients, Sens. Franken and Kirk wrote this bipartisan bill to make the drugs more affordable. You can read more about the Cancer Treatment Parity Act here.

Already, groups are signing on to endorse the bill, including the Patients Equal Access Coalition and the American Society of Clinical Oncology. You can read their letters of support here and here.

 

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