In the U.S., one woman is diagnosed with breast cancer every three minutes, and a woman dies from this disease every thirteen minutes. Mammograms, used to detect breast cancer, may not always be a sufficient screening tool for the 40% of American women with dense breast tissues. HB 1510 would require mammography facilities to provide patients with a written notice stating that this condition and other risk factors may exist, and it may be beneficial for these women to have supplemental screenings. This bill does not mandate additional tests but ensures that women have the necessary information they need in order to make the best possible decision regarding their individual situations.
SB 668 would increase the treatment options—either oral or intravenous—for cancer patients who are taking chemotherapy. In some cases it is reported that the oral therapies are preferred by both doctor and patient over the intravenous regimen, yet oral is often the more expensive of the two for the patient here in Missouri. Unfortunately, many individuals are unable to afford the chemotherapy medication prescribed by their doctors because of the cost disparity between the intravenous and oral cancer treatments. To rectify this unequal coverage of cancer therapies in Missouri, SB 668 would require insurance companies to charge equal co-pays for intravenous and pill forms of the medications. More doctors are beginning to prescribe oral chemotherapies for their patients because they may have fewer side effects (hair loss, nausea, and additional trips back to the hospital) than the IV form.
Oral drugs are considered a pharmaceutical benefit, not a medical benefit like IV chemotherapy; however, taking oral cancer medication in Missouri often results in patients having to be responsible for thousands of dollars of out-of-pocket expenses each month, even though the oral medications are generally 35% to 55% less expensive than their IV counterpart. Because the pill forms of these drugs cost patients considerably more to use, the high costs have prevented about 10% of cancer patients from filling their oral medication prescriptions. Patients should not have to turn down a potential life-saving medication because of outdated insurance regulations.SB 668 will modernize Missouri’s insurance rules and prepare our state for the future of cancer treatment. Today more than 25% of the new 400 chemotherapy drugs being developed are in oral therapy form. These oral drugs will not have a significant impact on the cost of insurance premiums, but it will give Missourians who are fighting for their live access to another treatment option. The bill we passed will bring parity to insurance coverage for both forms of chemotherapy—intravenous and pill form—by simply requiring insurance plans to cover both. This simple change will have a huge impact on many lives.
Currently, twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia have passed oral chemotherapy legislation, and Missouri could be the twenty-ninth state to enact such a law. In addition to HB 1510, SB 668 is on its way to Governor Nixon’s desk for his signature. With broad bi-partisan support for these bills, they both stand a good chance of becoming law. I was pleased to support them.