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Citing the significant quality of life benefits that oral chemotherapy drugs can provide over intravenously (IV) administered chemotherapy, Maryland’s cancer community, patient advocacy representatives and patients themselves called on the state legislature this week to pass key legislation that would ensure Maryland’s cancer patients are able to access their prescribed chemotherapy regimen of choice.
IV chemotherapy can lead to side effects including pain, hair loss, nausea, vomiting, and anemia, and can lead to added costs and logistical issues as patients must travel to cancer care facilities for treatment. Although oral chemotherapy drugs taken at home often result in fewer side effects, many health insurance plans’ coverage of orally administered chemotherapy is prohibitive due to higher copays, expensive deductibles or restrictive coverage limits.
“Oral chemotherapy drugs can often provide substantially greater comfort and convenience than IV administered chemotherapy, and Maryland’s cancer patients should have access to the treatments they prefer,” said Nancy Davenport-Ennis, founder and CEO of the National Patient Advocate Foundation (NPAF) and the Patient Advocate Foundation (PAF).
“We urge Maryland’s legislature to create parity in coverage and help individuals fighting cancer access the chemotherapy treatment of their choice without cost being an unrealistic barrier.”
The Kathleen A. Mathias Chemotherapy Parity Act of 2012 (Senate Bill 179) would prohibit insurers, nonprofit health service plans, and health maintenance organizations (HMOs) from covering orally administered cancer chemotherapy on terms that are less favorable than coverage for IV administered cancer chemotherapy.
The bill is named in honor of the late Kathy Mathias, wife of Sen. Jim Mathias (D-38), who lost her 14-year battle with cancer last August. The legislation currently has 26 cosponsors in the Senate and will be heard before the Maryland House Health and Government Operations Committee on February 9.
In testimony this week before the Maryland Senate Finance Committee, Larry L. Lanier, NPAF Vice President of State Government Affairs, noted that parity in chemotherapy drug coverage remains an important issue for patients, with many contacting PAF on a regular basis in need of assistance to cover the cost of oral chemotherapy medications.
Additional testimony was provided by representatives from The Maryland/District of Columbia Society of Clinical Oncology, the Maryland State Medical Society (MedChi), the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS), additional Maryland-based advocates, and patients who would benefit from the passage of this legislation.
“Senate Bill 179 would help Maryland’s cancer patients receive the prescribed chemotherapy treatment of their choice, and could help many individuals experience fewer side effects, maintain their jobs, and spend more time at home with their loved ones during a very challenging time,” said Mary Edwards, a registered nurse from Owings Mills who has worked with numerous cancer patients over the years.
“We hope that our lawmakers will join the 15 other states and the District of Columbia in passing similar legislation, and help improve Maryland cancer patients’ physical and emotional well-being while providing them with the treatment choices they deserve.”