September 25, 2013

Milwaukee Courier

Legislatively Speaking: The Cancer Treatment Fairness Act

By Senator Lena C. Taylor

Last week, I joined State Senator Alberta Darling and State Representative Pat Strachota along with 55 colleagues in the Wisconsin legislature to co-sponsor and introduce the Cancer Treatment Fairness Act, a law already passed by 26 other states across the nation to assure that patients who have insurance will be able to access the anti-cancer drugs their doctors prescribe for them.

Under the proposed bill, insurance companies will be prohibited from charging cancer patients higher copayments, deductibles or coinsurance for oral chemotherapy than they charge for intravenous chemotherapy. If a health insurance plan regulated by the state covers chemotherapy, then the out-of-pocket costs for patients must be the same regardless of how the treatment is dispensed – in a pill form or as an IV.  Doctors are increasingly prescribing a pill form of chemotherapy. For some patients, the only treatment that will work for them comes in a pill form.

This legislative change is even more important considering the future of cancer treatment. Researchers estimate that 25 to 35 percent of the new anti-cancer drugs are available only in pill form.  There are many advantages to oral chemotherapy, including convenience because pills can be taken at home with fewer side effects, allowing patients undergoing treatment to continue to work and care for their families while they fight their disease, and the increased effectiveness of these targeted medications. 

Oral Chemotherapy is as strong as the other forms and works just as well. Some chemotherapy drugs are never taken by mouth because the stomach can’t absorb them. Others may cause harm when swallowed. In fact, most chemotherapy drugs are put in through an IV (intravenous) line in a person’s vein. The chemotherapy you take by mouth is easier because it can be taken at home. You don’t need to go into a hospital or clinic for every treatment.

According to Ann Marie Frakes, Executive Director of Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Wisconsin, 87 people receive a cancer diagnosis every day. One of the best ways you can help fight the cancer is by taking your chemotherapy exactly the way your doctor or nurse tells you to.

I am proud to cosponsor this bi-partisan, commonsense legislation that will help to bring Wisconsin in line with national practices, and improve cancer treatment and care.