Cancer Treatment Fairness Act passes through final House committee

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On a bill that has received a fair amount of attention here but which deserves all the press it can get — a measure to provide greater access to oral drugs to cancer patients — has passed through its final House committee on Tuesday and was placed on the calendar on 2nd reading.

HB 301, sponsored by Rep. Debbie Mayfield along with 95 co-sponsors, did earn one dissenting vote in the Health & Human Service Commitee: Rep. John Tobia, who opined that the measure was a mandate that would drive up premium costs (it shouldn’t), and then scolded, saying, “It’s just terrible that we allow emotion to dictate good policy.” 

This admonition has its place; but in this case, emotion and good policy go hand in hand. 

Mayfield countered, saying that allowing patients to take oral medications will save costs by reducing trips to clinics and hospitals for IV treatments.  Taking medications at home is also more compatible with job schedules.  And, most importantly, about a quarter of newly developed cancer drugs are for oral administration, not intravenous, and for some may be the only effective or tolerable treatment.

While IV cancer treatments are generally covered under insurance policies as an office visit with low and often capped out-of-pocket costs, oral medications fall under pharmacy benefits, which incur higher and often unlimited out-of-pocket costs for patients.

The bill’s companion (SB 422), sponsored by Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, has already been unanimously approved by the Senate.