Delaware lawmakers propose easier access for cancer treatment drugs

Advocates for cancer patients in Delaware are hoping lawmakers will take action to address a wide disparity in the costs of life-saving treatment.

A bipartisan group of members of the Delaware General Assembly Wednesday introduced legislation that would require insurance companies to reimburse intravenous and oral cancer drugs at the same rate. 

Currently, health plans often cover intravenous or infusion medication, while oral drugs often require higher co-pays and payments. 

“Access to effective, medically-appropriate oral anticancer medications will assist in ensuring the immediate and long-term financial stability of patients,” Meghan Buzby of the International Myeloma Foundation said Wednesday at a news conference in Dover.  “If patients can access oral anticancer medications, take these medications at home and continue working during treatment, employers may avoid the costly issues of turnover, missed days at work, short and long-term disability, caregiver absenteeism and replacement worker costs.” 

One of the sponsors of the bill, State Representative Deborah Hudson (R-Fairthorne) said the Delaware Cancer Treatment Access Act would not mandate insurance coverage for cancer treatment, if such treatments are not already covered by a health plan.  The bill would only impact those plans that currently list anti-cancer treatment as a covered service.

Josephine Diagonale of Magnolia, a cancer survivor and a local member of the International Myeloma Foundation Support Group, said she was shocked when she learned of the “staggering, out-of-pocket costs” of the preferred drug for her treatment.  “This disparity restricts patient access to life-saving, oral cancer therapies,” Diagonale said.  “When the oral treatment is determined to be most effective, patients are sometimes forced to make their treatment choice based on cost, rather than efficacy.”

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