Cancer treatment bill awaits Scott’s signature

Among the healthcare-related achievements of the legislative session that ended last week: passage of the Cancer Treatment Fairness Act, a bill that now awaits the signature — or veto — of Gov. Rick Scott. It would require insurance companies to cover oral chemotherapy treatment in the same manner they cover the treatment when administered intravenously by injection.

Currently, cancer patients in Florida who receive their medication in pills may face high, out-of-pocket expenses because most insurers consider the drugs a pharmaceutical benefit and do not cover their cost except when the chemotherapy is administered in a clinic.

The legislation enjoyed broad support among leadership in the Florida Senate and the House of Representatives — with 24 co-sponsors in the Senate and 79 in the House. The law would go into effect in July 2014.

According to a House analysis of the bill, oral chemotherapy is a growing trend: More than 25 percent of the 400 chemotherapy drugs in development are planned as oral medications. The analysis cites Pharmaceutical Executive magazine as stating that patient out-of-pocket costs for oral cancer medicine averaged $2,942 in 2009, which represented a 17 percent increase over the costs in 2008.

A number of states have been pushing insurance companies to cover the pills the same way they cover traditional chemotherapy treatments. Between 2008 and April 2013, 22 states and the District of Columbia have enacted oral chemotherapy parity laws, and all of them have prohibited insurers from raising rates on intravenous and injectable chemotherapy treatment.

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