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Patients lobby for oral chemotherapy bill

By Jessica Arp, jarp@wisctv.com
Published On: Dec 24 2013 02:22:36 PM CST
Updated On: Nov 07 2013 08:20:18 PM CST

MADISON, Wis. -

A bill to require insurance coverage of oral chemotherapy brought cancer patients to the state Capitol Thursday.

The bill has bipartisan support, but it's also setting up a difficult decision for one lawmaker.

The measure would require insurance companies who cover intravenous chemotherapy to also cover it in pill form.

Katherine Nelson, of Lake Mills, came to the Capitol with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society as a survivor of chronic myelogenous leukemia, hoping to convince lawmakers to support the Cancer Treatment Fairness Act. Nelson said when she was diagnosed in 2011, her insurance didn't cover the medication.

"I spent 48 years of my life paying into an insurance company, paying premium rates," said Nelson. "Someone at a call center is telling me no. Someone at an insurance company is telling me if I will live or die."

Nelson went to state Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, with her case Thursday.

Kleefisch comes at the issue from a personal perspective. His wife, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, used oral and IV chemo to fight colon cancer in 2010. But he has questions over the cost of an insurance mandate.

"It is my hope and prayer that anybody who would need this type of chemotherapy would be able to receive it, no doubt," said Kleefisch. "That does not eliminate the difficult question for who is going to pay for it."

Kleefisch said many insurance companies are moving to cover oral chemo, as those drugs are more targeted therapies, and he'd like to see whether a state mandate is even necessary.

"At some point, will it be mandated? It might be," Kleefisch said. "Should it be? I don't have the answer yet."

Bill advocates say the bill isn't a mandate, but rather is just asking for the same coverage for oral drugs as IV chemo.

The bill has already gotten a hearing in a Senate committee, but not yet a vote. It will get a hearing in the Assembly Health Committee Wednesday.

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