Benacquisto’s Cancer Treatment Fairness Act unanimously passes Senate

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Legislation aimed at increasing access to orally administered cancer treatments passed the Florida Senate unanimously, requiring insurers that cover intravenously administered chemotherapies to provide oral drugs at no greater cost to patients.

SB 422, titled the Cancer Treatment Fairness Act, was sponsored by Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto and was cosponsored by 37 of her 39 Senate colleagues.

“I couldn’t be more proud of my colleagues in the Florida Senate who unanimously stood up for Cancer Patients across the state today by choosing to co-sponsor and pass the Cancer Treatment Fairness Act,” said Benacquisto. “Each day, 324 new Floridians will be diagnosed with cancer, and this bill will help create access to life-saving oral medications for those individuals. Ensuring that Florida’s patients have fair, equal access to the courses of treatment identified as the most effective in treating their specific illness is a priority. Health insurance policies must keep up with advancements in medicine in order to best meet the needs of those they serve.”

Yet HB 301, the bill’s companion by Rep. Mayfield, has yet to be placed on an upcoming agenda of its final stop in the Health and Human Services Committee, chaired by Rep. Corcoran.

As previously reported here, while intravenous methods are most common for administering chemotherapy, at least one quarter of drugs in oncology development are oral medications, many of which do not have an IV equivalent. And while intravenous medications are usually covered by health plans as an office or outpatient service, oral cancer drugs are generally treated as a prescription drug benefit, leaving many patients with prohibitively high costs to comply with treatment.  

In some cases, this becomes a life or death decision; and for others, it means missing unnecessary days at work to receive chemotherapy versus taking oral medications independently at home.

According to the Senate press release, if SB 422 becomes law,  Florida will join 22 other states, plus the District of Columbia, in addressing a longstanding disparity in access to orally administered cancer treatment. The bill has broad support from multiple patient and health advocacy organizations, as well as physicians and nurses in the oncology field.