Senators Ryan Silvey and Brian Munzlinger and Representative Sheila Solon are sponsors of a bill to ease the financial burden of Missourians with cancer. The senators are working to assure that when people receive a cancer diagnosis, they can focus on recovery and following the treatment regimen their doctors have prescribed, not worry that insurance discriminates against them based on the type of therapy prescribed or the site of service where treatment is received.
Unfortunately insurance benefit designs have not kept pace with technological advancements in therapy resulting in much higher patient cost-sharing obligations for oral anti-cancer treatments than for IV chemotherapy. Cancer patients continue to be discriminated against based upon the site of service where they receive their treatment Ė if they receive IV chemotherapy at the hospital, they are charged a flat co-pay under their medical benefit. If they receive an oral anti-cancer therapy, they can be charged high co-insurances (percentage of actual cost of drug) under their pharmacy benefits which can range from hundreds to thousands out-of-pocket dollars each month.
The future of cancer care is pills administered orally that target cancer cells. The pills would allow childhood cancer patients to continue school and live a normal life during treatment.
My son, Eli Tree, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblast leukemia (ALL) Type B-cell in 2010 at the age of two. For three and a half years of treatment, he received two types of oral chemo; mercaptopurine (6MP) and methotrexate. He received the 6MP almost every day and the methotrexate once weekly at home. Both oral chemo drugs were vital in Eliís treatment plan, and we canít imagine what we would have done if they werenít available. Our insurance did not help pay for either one of Eliís oral chemos. We had to pay out of pocket for the first year and then thankfully St. Jude helped pay for the rest. These drugs were both part of what was needed to save Eliís life!
Senate Bill 668 does not mandate coverage of oral chemotherapy drugs. It only asks that insurance benefits and payments keep up with the science of treating cancer by requiring health plans that do cover chemotherapy ensure equal out-of-pocket cost of all chemotherapies, no matter how they are administered. Senate Bill 668 already has passed unanimously in the Senate, and was voted out of House Committees on February 27, 2014. We expect a House floor vote soon.
Missouri should join 28 states and the District of Columbia that have passed cancer treatment fairness legislation. Letís make sure patients in Missouri can access the treatments their doctors prescribe as they fight their cancer. Letís pass Senate Bill 668 now.
Christy Tree, Springfield, MO