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Weinberg-Gill Measure To Ensure Insurance Coverage For Oral Cancer Drugs Advances

A view of the Senate Chambers from the 2010-2011 Senate Reorganization.

Measure Would Require that Oral Cancer Drugs Are Covered on Similar Basis to Intravenous Cancer Drugs

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senators Loretta Weinberg and Nia Gill which would require that all health insurers in New Jersey cover orally-administered cancer medications under similar terms and conditions used in the coverage for intravenous or injected cancer drugs was approved by the Senate Commerce Committee today by a vote of 5-0.

“With the advances in medicine over the last ten years, orally-administered cancer drugs have become a popular alternative to intravenous cancer medications,” said Senator Weinberg, D-Bergen, and the Chairwoman of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. “These drugs often have the same efficacy as their injected counterparts, but allow patients to spend less time in a doctor’s office or clinic, and the side effects have been reported as less severe. There’s simply no reason to have two standards of coverage when people suffering from cancer can get the same medicine with more convenience and fewer harsh side effects.”

“For people suffering from cancer, sometimes the prescribed course of treatment can be just as painful as the disease,” said Senator Gil, D-Essex and Passaic, the Chairwoman of the Commerce Committee. “However, as we make headway in developing better cancer treatments that limit the harsh side effects that are traditionally associated with chemotherapy and radiation therapy, we have to make sure our insurance providers cover the new drugs under comparable guidelines used for injected cancer drugs. This bill gives cancer patients the flexibility to choose the best drugs for them.”

The bill, S-1834, would require health insurers to provide insurance coverage for prescribed, orally-administered cancer medications on a basis which is no less favorable that the policy or contract provides for injected anticancer medications. Under the bill, insurers would be prohibited from subjecting the coverage of oral cancer medication to any prior authorization stipulations, dollar limits, copayments, deductibles or coinsurance standards that are do not apply to intravenously-administered or injected cancer drugs. The bill would also prohibit insurers from imposing new barriers on injected anticancer drugs in order to comply with the provisions of this bill.

“Treatment for cancer can be a long and painful process, and if we can, we should ensure that treatment is as convenient and pain-free as possible,” said Senator Gill. “Oral cancer medications can be administered with minimal physician oversight and reduced negative side effects. This is about compassion and respect for people going through treatment for cancer.”

“When patients consider the best course of treatment for their cancer, they should be able to choose the medications that offer them maximum efficiency with minimum disruption to their everyday lives,” said Senator Weinberg. “Unfortunately, we’ve seen instances in which health insurers subject oral cancer medications to reduced drug reimbursement or higher co-pays than those associated with injected medications. This bill is about making sure that insurance companies treat cancer patients with fairness in their most difficult hour.”

The bill now heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, before going to the full Senate for review.

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