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Rep. Higgins Announces Introduction of Chemotherapy Parity Legislation

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

"Doctors, not insurance companies, should decide the best course of treatment for cancer patients," said Congressman Higgins, a member of the House Cancer Caucus. "This legislation will better enable patients to have access to the best available treatments that will extend and improve their quality of life."

Under current law, most IV treatments are routinely covered under the medical benefit component of a health insurance plan, while orally-administered anti-cancer medications are usually covered under the prescription drug component, which often results in a considerable disparity in coverage. This legislation would remove this disparity, ensuring that medication cost is not a factor in patient decisions. This is especially important as oral chemotherapy is becoming a more common standard of care for cancer patients and many of these oral chemotherapy drugs do not have IV/injectable equivalents.

"On behalf of Roswell Park and its patients, I want to thank Congressman Higgins for advocating for fair, reasonable access to life-saving medications," said Dr. Eunice Wang, a medical oncologist at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. "It is imperative that treatment decisions be based on medical evidence and not dictated by insurance policies. It is critical that our payment policies and systems keep up with the innovations in drug development."

"Thankfully, the New York state Assembly passed a similar state law, effective January 1, 2012, which covers about half of all cancer patients in the state," said Nancy Hails, Executive Director of The Western & Central NY Chapter Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. "We are hopeful that HR 1801, when passed, will level the playing field, and ensure access to life-saving therapies for all of our patients."

"Every day we hear stories from patients that can't afford the treatment that has been recommended by their physician because of high out-of-pocket costs. This bill will mean that patients no longer have to decide between the best treatment and financial stability, and can focus on what really matters: beating their cancer. PEAC members and their advocates applaud Congressman Higgins for his leadership and will passionately work beside him for the passage of this critical legislation this Congress," said Meghan Buzby, Director of US Advocacy for the International Myeloma Foundation and Steering Committee Member of the Patients Equal Access Coalition, a patient-focused coalition of organizations representing patients, health care professionals, care centers, and industry that advocates for patients to have equal access to all anticancer treatments.

"The Cancer Drug Coverage Parity Act is important legislation that would help alleviate the serious financial burden that patients with blood cancer currently face in order to take life-saving therapies," said American Society of Hematology President Janis L. Abkowitz, MD, of the University of Washington. "The American Society of Hematology commends Representative Higgins on his efforts with this bi-partisan legislation that will help improve patient access to affordable oral therapies for their cancer."

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