Senate OKs Hansen bill establishing parity for oral oncology drugs

October 18, 2017

LANSING — The state Senate passed legislation Wednesday that could guarantee thousands of Michigan residents access to the most effective chemotherapy treatment to fight cancer.

Senate Bill 492, sponsored by Sen. Goeff Hansen, would ensure that health insurance plans cover oral chemotherapy drugs in the same way intravenously or injected anticancer treatments are covered.

“Some of the best new therapies for certain forms of cancer now are in pill form,” said Hansen, R-Hart. “Unfortunately, there is inequity in the way different cancer treatments are covered by insurance, and oral chemotherapy medicine is often prohibitively expensive for patients. Senate Bill 492 would change that.”

Hansen said medical necessity — not convenience — is the reason physicians prescribe oral chemotherapies; some cancers, such as blood cancer, can be treated only by oral chemotherapy.

If oral chemotherapy is prescribed, health insurance plans currently require patients to pay expensive prescription co-pays that are often thousands of dollars more than IV drugs simply because this treatment comes in pills.

“The co-pay for oral chemotherapy is costing up to $5,000 a month,” Hansen said. “My measure helps ensure equitable access to all necessary treatment options.”

If signed into law, Senate Bill 492 would bring Michigan up to speed with 43 other states that have enacted similar oral chemotherapy access laws.

The bill now heads to the state House for further consideration.