MA Health Insurance Providers to Make Cancer-Fighting Medicines More Affordable

Massachusetts lawmakers have passed legislation making oral chemotherapy pills more accessible to patients. The new law requires insurance companies to provide the same amount of coverage for the cancer-fighting medication as they do for in-clinic, IV treatment.

There’s not yet a pill for every form of cancer. But State Senator Stephen Brewer — who sponsored the bill — says there are about a dozen kinds of cancer, including breast, colon and lung that can be treated using oral prescription drugs in the comfort and privacy of a patient’s own home. He says that’s because medical researchers and doctors have made a lot of progress over the past few years.

“Science is advancing in quantum leaps. Because of their effectiveness, oral anti-cancer therapies are becoming a more common and acceptable treatment for cancer patients because they’re more targeted and cause less damage to the body than chemotherapy does. But we want to make sure that people don’t go broke trying to save their lives.”

According to the Boston Globe many health insurance plans fully cover IV chemotherapy treatments. But those same plans tend to cover just a small percentage of oral chemotherapy pills — which means cancer patients have been paying up to 700 dollars per pill, out of pocket.

Brewer says now insurance companies will bear more of that burden. He says premiums may go up from 4 cents to around 23 cents per member per month over a five year period. But he says that financial impact is much smaller than the healthy outcomes he hopes the option will provide.

“We have an obligation to try to sustain life and try to improve the quality of life for our citizens as well.”

He says similar legislation already exists in a handful of other states including Vermont, Oregon and Hawaii — and is pending in around 20 other states.