Chemotherapy parity law extends coverage for oral treatments

Nebraska recently enacted a chemotherapy parity law requiring insurance companies to insure oral chemotherapy the same as intravenous cancer treatments. This article in the Lincoln Journal Star cites a 2010 study conducted by Kate Fitch, Kosuke Iwasaki, and Bruce Pyenson on the cost-sharing of oral and intravenous cancer drugs.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

Sen. Jeremy Nordquist of Omaha, who spearheaded the legislation in Nebraska, said the lack of parity in coverage between intravenous and oral chemotherapy medications is a growing problem. Some cancer treatments cost $5,000 to $10,000 a month, and some patients are being forced to pay high out-of-pocket costs for chemotherapy taken orally.

“This … will make life-saving cancer treatments more accessible and affordable for cancer patients,” he said. “The decision about the best course of treatment, whether it be IV chemo or chemo in a pill form, will be made between patients and their doctor, not dictated by their insurance company.”

Nordquist said research shows that when confronted with the reality of high out-of-pocket expenses, many cancer patients forgo expensive therapy and discontinue treatment, in part because they do not want to saddle their families with unmanageable debt.

And because oncologists know how expensive oral medications can be, he said, they often do not prescribe them — even when they think that would be the best option.

The actuarial and benefits consulting firm Milliman Inc. did a study in 2010 that estimated that requiring similar coverage for oral chemotherapy would cost less than $6 a year per person in most insurance plans.

To read the entire Milliman study, click here.

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