Hansen op-ed: Michigan must eliminate costly inequity among cancer treatments

Sen. Goeff Hansen

Sen. Goeff Hansen

By Sen. Goeff Hansen
34th Senate District

No one is ever prepared to receive the news that a family member, friend or co-worker has cancer. If it happens, and it happened to me with my son Collin, we experience a number of emotions. Most of all, though, we try to empathize and be supportive through an extremely difficult time.

Sometimes that support is driving a patient to their chemotherapy treatments or providing meals. Other times it is donating money to help someone afford their expensive copays for oral chemotherapy pills, which can cost $5,000 per month per prescription.

When speaking with doctors and patients, I was appalled to learn that health insurance plans treat the coverage of oral chemotherapy differently than chemotherapy received intravenously or by injection.

Because oral chemo is considered a pharmaceutical and not a medical benefit like IV or injection chemo, patients are forced to pay thousands of dollars more.

The cost of medicine is the last thing a loved one should have to worry about when they are bravely fighting for their life.

In response to this situation I sponsored Senate Bill 492, which would fix this inequity and ensure people can access the medicine they need. Forty-three other states have adopted similar legislation.

Some opposed to the measure claim insurance premiums would increase. However, they fail to mention other states have already debated this issue and found it to have little to no impact on premiums.

When it comes to treating cancer, people should not have to ration their medicine or skip it altogether because they cannot afford it. They have enough on their plate.

We need to fix the problem and make sure insurance plans provide equal, affordable coverage for chemotherapy regardless of how it administered.

The Michigan Senate passed this bipartisan bill by a vote of 36-1, and I thank my colleagues for their support.

I now urge my colleagues in the Michigan House of Representatives to act swiftly and join us in passing this bipartisan, patient-focused proposal that will remove a major barrier to lifesaving treatments.

Senator Goeff Hansen, R-Hart, serves the residents of the 34th Senate District, representing Muskegon, Newaygo, and Oceana counties.


Senate OKs Hansen bill establishing parity for oral oncology drugs

Sen. Goeff Hansen

Sen. Goeff Hansen

LANSING, Mich. — The state Senate on Wednesday passed legislation that could guarantee thousands of Michigan residents have access to the most effective chemotherapy treatment to fight their cancer.

Senate Bill 492, sponsored by Sen. Goeff Hansen, would ensure that health insurance plans cover oral chemotherapy drugs in the same way intravenously or injected anticancer treatments are covered.

“Some of the best new therapies for certain forms of cancer now are in pill form,” said Hansen, R-Hart. “Unfortunately, there is inequity in the way different cancer treatments are covered by insurance, and oral chemotherapy medicine is often prohibitively expensive for patients. SB 492 would change that.”

Hansen said medical necessity — not convenience — is the reason physicians prescribe oral chemotherapies; some cancers, such as blood cancer, can be treated only by oral chemotherapy.

If oral chemotherapy is prescribed, health insurance plans currently require patients to pay expensive prescription co-pays that are often thousands of dollars more than IV drugs simply because this treatment comes in pills.

“The co-pay for oral chemotherapy is costing up to $5,000 a month,” Hansen said. “My measure helps ensure equitable access to all necessary treatment options.”

If signed into law, SB 492 would bring Michigan up to speed with 43 other states that have enacted similar oral chemotherapy access laws.

The bill now heads to the state House for further consideration.

Note: Audio of Sen. Hansen discussing SB 492 is available by selecting Audio under the Media Center tab, above.

Governor signs Hansen’s bill reducing medical costs for local governments

LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Rick Snyder has signed Sen. Goeff Hansen’s legislation that will reduce costs for local units of government participating in a public employer pooled plan (PEPP).

“By lowering costs, Public Act 55 of 2017 is good both for local governments and for public employees,” said Hansen, R-Hart.

Hansen said the reduced costs are largely due to the new law lowering the minimum cash reserve amount that must be held by a mature PEPP. A mature PEPP is a pooled plan that has operated for at least five years.

In addition, under the new law, a pooled plan would no longer be able to meet the reserve requirement with a letter of credit.

Note: Click the image for a print-quality version. This photo and others are also available by selecting Photowire, above.