Bill would limit insurance company say over cancer treatments

Capitol View
Posted at 5:17 PM, Feb 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-18 20:43:39-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF)  — Cancer advocates plan to spend hours urging Tennessee lawmakers to restore funding that helps save lives.

Tuesday marks Cancer Action Day at the Capitol. Cancer patients, survivors and volunteers want legislators to make fighting the disease a priority.

The American Cancer Society says almost 40,000 people will be diagnosed with cancer this year and almost 15,000 will die from the disease. They're hoping advocating for funding will help those numbers shrink.

They say one way to help is for legislation that limits the use of step therapy, otherwise known as "fail first," policies that impact how patients are treated.

Some insurance companies can require a cancer patient to try a lower-cost treatment first and fail on it before they will cover the more expensive drug that an oncologist recommends.

"Step therapy is the practice, where say a oncology patient goes to their doctor and their doctor says we need you to take this kind of treatment for your cancer and then they go and the insurance company says well we want you to try a cheaper drug or a cheaper therapy first," said Emily Ogden, TN Government Relations Director, American Cancer Society. "You have to fail at that before you can get the drug that your oncologist prescribes."

Ogden and other cancer survivors believe this could lead to cancer spreading.

"It doesn't get to the source quick enough," said Carla Savage, a cancer survivor. "Because if you're doing all these drugs that might not help, that patient might die before they find a cure for that patient. We've got to save these people. We've got to give them another birthday."

Advocates will also urge lawmakers to restore funding to the state's tobacco cessation and prevention programs – that includes addressing the growing number of young people using e-cigarettes.

They say funding these types of programs at $4 million annually will help prevent a lifetime addiction to tobacco.