Public hearing on oral chemotherapy bill - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

UPDATE: Public hearing on oral chemotherapy bill

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MADISON (WKOW) -- A bill that aims to make chemotherapy treatments cheaper and less invasive is under fire at the Capitol.

The Assembly Committee on Health heard both sides of the argument on a bill requiring insurance companies to equally cover different types of chemotherapy treatments.

Some insurance plans charge higher co-pays to patients whose doctors opt for oral chemotherapy drugs, instead of traditional intravenous chemo treatment. 

Supporters say the pill form offers cancer patients a cheaper, more comfortable and less invasive option that in some cases has proven to be more effective. 

"Cancer treatment options should be a decision made by a patient and their doctors on what is the best possible treatment option for their form of cancer," says Republican Rep. Pat Strachota, who authored the bill.
 
Dr. Douglas Rizzo with the Medical College of Wisconsin testified at the hearing Wednesday saying the oral treatments are necessary for some patients.
 
"They do have improved efficacy and that's what really matters, because of the fact that they're targeted, they're more efficacious, sometimes less side effects," Rizzo told the committee.
 
A Wisconsin woman who survived cancer also testified in favor of the bill. Jennifer Grandkoski was diagnosed with leukemia in 2000. She says her treatment required both IV and oral chemo.
 
Grandkoski says her therapy nearly bankrupted her family, having to pay more than $500 out of pocket for every 10 days of pills from the pharmacy.
 
"My cancer journey came with a high price tag physically, emotionally and fiscally," she told the committee. "No one should ever have to worry about paying for treatment when they are fighting for their life."
 
The bill would not require insurance companies to cover oral chemo. Many insurance companies in our area already do, but pharmacy coverage can be less comprehensive than medical coverage, which means when a patient gets the IV treatment at the hospital they're more covered than when they go to the pharmacy for pills.
 
James Buchen from the Alliance of Health Insurers argued the bill is not business-friendly.
 
"This is the first time we go beyond mandating coverage and say specifically how it should be structured, it's a new intrusion on how we operate this business," says Buchen. "Pretty soon you've got legislation dictating a host of things that are going to be treated differently than the standard system of pharmacy coverage that we have today."
 
Medical experts say the oral chemo drugs can retail $8-12,000 for just a month's supply, and depending on a patient's insurance, they could be left to cover much of that cost.
 
An advocate told the committee when prescriptions or treatments cost more than $500, at least 20 percent of patients will abandon life-saving care.

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MADISON (WKOW) -- An Assembly committee is taking public comment on a bill that would require insurance companies to cover forms of cancer treatment on the same level.

On Wednesday afternoon, The Committee on Health will take up Assembly Bill 392, which prohibits insurance policies from requiring a patient to pay a higher co pay for oral chemotherapy than is required for injected or intravenous chemotherapy.

The bill has bipartisan support but some lobbying groups that support heath insurance companies are opposed to the legislation.

We'll share testimony from the hearing tonight on 27 News at 5 & 6.

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