Chemotherapy pills that cancer patients can take at home would be more affordable under a bill that the Wisconsin Senate passed on April 1 – the last planned meeting day of its two-year session.
The oral chemotherapy bill was one of the most hotly debated measures in the waning weeks of the two-year session. The Senate passed it on a bipartisan 26-7 vote, after passing a similar version last month on a 30-2 vote.
The Republican-sponsored measure would require health insurers to charge the same price for chemotherapy pills, which can be taken at home, as for intravenous treatments, which are administered at hospitals. Supporters say the proposal would help more patients afford a more convenient form of the treatment, which can cost thousands of dollars more than intravenous versions.
But Democrats argued that the bill as written, which the Assembly amended to cap copayments at $100 a month, leaves too many loopholes for insurance companies to charge more in co-insurance and higher deductibles.
Patients could be liable for hundreds of dollars a month in copays because many prescriptions require taking a combination of chemotherapy drugs, said Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville.
“It’s a complete giveaway to the health insurance industry and the expense of people who have cancer,” said Cullen, a former health insurance company executive.
Bill proponents, though, said costs would still go down with the law change, even with the copay.
“This is a compromise we need to look at and we need to pass,” said the bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Alberta Darling, of River Hills. Darling said she would work with the state insurance commissioner to make sure the bill is enacted as intended and copays are capped at $100 a month.
Cancer support advocates who have lobbied for years to get the bill passed have backed the measure, which would take effect in January.
Walker has said he will sign the bill into law.