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Oral chemotherapy bill likely to be amended, future unclear

By Jessica Arp, jarp@wisctv.com
Published On: Mar 20 2014 06:32:24 PM CDT
Updated On: Mar 21 2014 06:27:17 AM CDT

A bill requiring insurance companies to cover oral chemotherapy drugs will likely be amended.

MADISON, Wis. -

A bill requiring insurance companies to cover oral chemotherapy drugs will likely be amended.

Assembly leaders, including the author of the bill, Rep. Pat Strachota, R-West Bend, announced the proposed changes at a news conference Thursday along with cancer survivors and a board member of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

The amendment would tell insurance companies to either cover oral chemotherapy pills if they cover IV medications, or cap a co-pay for the pills at $100 a month. That cap could be increased after Jan. 1, 2016, by a measure of the Consumer Price Index.

"We were able to bring together advocates who want to make sure something can get signed into law that would become law not just today but over the long term, and also help keep costs down for individuals and insurance companies," said Rep. Robin Vos, R-Burlington, who had previously been opposed to the measure.

Strachota said she tried to draft an amendment that was similar to measures passed in other states requiring a co-pay cap, and said she felt it was needed to "modernize" the bill. She said she couldn't speculate on whether the bill would have passed the Assembly without an amendment.

Cancer survivors said the bill was a win, calling the co-pay "more than fair."

"Just the fact that when you get cancer it is so devastating and then when you have a whole other struggle to get treatment, to find that people in the future, any cancer patient will not have to go through this -- I hope I don't cry, because it's just so exciting," said Katherine Nelson, a cancer survivor from Lake Mills.

But Democrats aren't convinced that change is the right thing to do.

Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, calls the amendment "disgraceful" and says asking cancer patients to come up with $100 a month is too much.

"Democrats are going to clearly go for the original bill, the governor is for the original bill, the Senate author is for the original bill and there's only one person who isn't and that is Speaker Vos, who is imposing his will on the rest of the caucus," Barca said.

If the bill passes the Assembly Thursday or Friday, it will have to go back to the Senate for consideration. Leaders in that house have not indicated whether they'll take it up or whether it could pass.

A spokeswoman for the governor said Thursday he would sign the amended bill.

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