U.S. Sens. Tina Smith, Jerry Moran Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Make Life-saving Oral Cancer Medications More Affordable

WASHINGTON, D.C. [12/12/18]—Today, U.S. Sens. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) introduced legislation—also supported by Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.)—to make sure oral cancer drugs are covered in the same way as traditional (IV) chemotherapy to bring down costs for Americans suffering from cancer. Sens. Smith and Moran said their bipartisan bill, the Cancer Drug Parity Act, is needed to make sure that health insurance plans fairly cover advances in oral cancer medication.

Currently, over 40 states—including both Minnesota and Kansas—and the District of Columbia have passed “oral parity” laws that stop insurers from charging more for prescribed oral cancer medicine than IV chemotherapy. The Cancer Drug Parity Actwould build on this work by expanding these protections at the federal level.

“Advances in cancer treatment have made it possible for Americans to get life-saving oral cancer medication. This means people can now take the life-saving medicine they need without having to leave their homes, and in a far less intrusive way than traditional IV chemotherapy,” said Sen. Smith. “But since oral cancer medications are self-administered, many people are having to shell out more dollars because this medication isn’t covered the same way as IV treatments. My bipartisan bill with Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas would put a stop to charging more for oral cancer drugs because we should be doing all we can to make life-saving cancer treatment more affordable for all Americans.”

“Individuals suffering from cancer deserve treatment options available through their insurance,” said Sen. Moran. “As the number of oral cancer drugs increase each year, patients ought to be able to immediately benefit from these medical advancements. This sensible legislation would keep health insurance on pace with the latest cancer treatments, build on laws already implemented in 43 states and expand cancer coverage for oral drugs for 100 million individuals covered through group and individual health plans. I am a strong supporter of medical research to find new treatments, therapies and cures, and I am working to make certain these exciting new treatments can reach cancer patients and ultimately save lives.”

The Cancer Drug Parity Act is supported by more than 30 organizations, including The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

“Science is dramatically changing the way cancer is treated. Even with these breakthroughs, too many cancer patients can’t access their treatments because insurance rules have not kept pace with innovation,” said Louis J. DeGennaro, Ph.D., President and CEO of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. “The Cancer Drug Parity Act will eliminate the financial barriers that stand between many cancer patients and the breakthrough treatments that could save their lives. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society applauds Senator Smith and Senator Moran for their leadership on behalf of cancer patients and stands ready to work with Congress to move this important bill forward.”

The Cancer Drug Parity Act would:

  • Prevent insurers from covering oral and self-administered medicines at different cost-sharing rates than IV chemotherapy
  • Not mandate that healthcare plans provide chemotherapy coverage, but rather only apply to plans already covering chemotherapy

You can access a summary of the bill here and full bill text here.