Pennsylvania Cancer Fairness Coalition Seeks Parity in Cancer Treatment

The 28th annual National Cancer Survivors Day is Sunday, June 7, 2015.

The time was right for the Pennsylvania Cancer Fairness Coalition’s June 3, 2015 news conference at the Capitol in Harrisburg. The press conference was held in support of Senate Bill 536, a bill that would prohibit health insurers from charging a higher cost-share for an oral anticancer medication than intravenously administered or injected cancer medications.

Cancer survivors, alongside partner organizations from the Pennsylvania Cancer Fairness Coalition, participated in the news conference in order to share their experiences with oral cancer medications with lawmakers. The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 81,000 Pennsylvanians will be diagnosed with cancer this year.

The bipartisan bill, introduced by Senator Tommy Tomlinson (R-Bucks), would help to ensure patient access to needed medications. Oral chemotherapy is typically part of a prescription drug benefit, whereas intravenous treatment is typically covered by a patient’s medical benefit. This can lead to different out-of-pocket costs depending upon the course of treatment.

The June 3 news conference highlighted several reasons for the importance of oral cancer treatments:

  • Pills can be taken at home. This could reduce strain on health care systems and prevent patients from missing time at work.
  • Some orally-administered cancer treatments don’t have substitutes. If the cost of a drug is prohibitive, the patient may receive no treatment.
  • Oral medications account for 25-35 percent of oncology treatments in development.

According to the International Myeloma Foundation, 39 states and the District of Columbia have already enacted oral chemotherapy laws. The Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED) supports the bill and the coalition.

A similar bill, House Bill 60 introduced by Rep. Matt Baker (R-Tioga) and passed in the House of Representatives in February 2015, also received PAMED’s support.

PAMED would like to send its support to all cancer survivors who will be celebrating life and raising awareness this Sunday, June 7.