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Vitale-Weinberg Bill To Ensure Access To Outpatient Cancer Care Advances

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senators Joseph F. Vitale and Loretta Weinberg which would require outpatient cancer care facilities to provide services to patients without regard to pay or source of payment was approved by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee today by a vote of 5-0, with one abstention.

“Whether you’re young, old, rich or poor, cancer doesn’t discriminate, and is an equal-opportunity disease that strikes all segments of the population,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex, the chair of the health panel. “Our State’s outpatient cancer treatment and testing facilities shouldn’t discriminate either. We need to ensure that everyone, regardless of their economic situation, has access to the best cancer care that New Jersey has to offer.”

“With proper treatment and early detection, cancer is not the death sentence it once was,” said Senator Weinberg, D-Bergen. “We need to make sure that everyone can get the cancer care they need in Garden State, whether they can meet the high costs of treatment or not. If we’re going to win the war against cancer, we need to grant access to the tests and treatment that will make a difference in the lives of those living with the disease.”

The bill, S-1046, would prohibit a qualified outpatient care facility which provides cancer-related diagnostic and treatment services, including radiation therapy, chemotherapy, diagnostic radiology and medical and surgical consultation, from turning down any patient because of a concern over ability to pay or source of payment. The bill would only apply to facilities that have a total square footage of more than 20,000 square feet, and would take effect on the 60th day following enactment of the bill.

“Under current law in New Jersey, a hospital can’t turn you away, whether you have insurance or the ability to pay for healthcare services or not,” said Senator Vitale. “This is basically an extension of the charity care system which is working well to provide health care access to the uninsured and economically disadvantaged. Cancer testing and treatment, administered early in the disease’s diagnosis, will save lives, and the State has an obligation to its residents to make this testing and treatment available.”

“Through this legislation, New Jersey can take the lead in terms of the cancer-related medical services to which our State’s residents have access,” said Senator Weinberg. “We should be a shining example to other states in the nation that seek a compassionate approach for those living with cancer. Battling cancer can be the toughest fight in one’s life, and with this bill, we’re sending a clear message that the State of New Jersey is in your corner.”

The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

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