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Advocacy Update - February 15, 2012

February 15, 2012

Advocates in Action

New Jersey – The oral chemotherapy access bill, A.2666 / S.1834 was signed by Governor Christie on January 17, 2012 making New Jersey the 15th state to pass this legislation into law. This is a tremendous victory for all cancer patients in New Jersey who now have access to all anti-cancer medications regardless of the method of delivery. A huge thank you to all of our advocates who made this possible!

Delaware – On January 25, leader of the Delmarva Multiple Myeloma Support and Networking Group, Josephine Diagonale, addressed legislators, supporters, and members of the press at a press conference held to announce the introduction of the Delaware Cancer Treatment Access Act (HB 265).

HB 265 would require health insurance plans in Delaware that cover cancer treatments to provide coverage for orally administered anti-cancer medications on a basis no less favorable than coverage for intravenously administered or injected anti-cancer medications. To read about Josephine’s accomplishments, check out this month’s Advocate of the Month!

Virginia – Jerry Walton, leader of the Southeastern Virginia Multiple Myeloma Support Group gave testimony on the Virginia oral chemotherapy access bill (HB 1273) to the Health, Welfare, and Institution Committee, where it passed 16 to 1. We are excited to announce it was recently voted unanimously out of the House! Thank you to everyone who wrote to his/her legislators. We are one step closer!

Maryland On behalf of the IMF and myeloma patients, Meghan Buzby, State Government Affairs, testified in support of HB 243, the Kathleen A. Mathias Chemotherapy Parity Act of 2012, which would prohibit health insurers from imposing limits or cost sharing for orally administered cancer chemotherapy that are less favorable than the limits or cost sharing for IV or injected cancer chemotherapy. Meghan underscored the importance of access to all treatment options for myeloma patients and explained that oral chemotherapy is not a matter of convenience, but a matter of survival. The committee has yet to vote on the bill.

Missouri – Kansas City resident Jon Killip, DDS will testify before the House Insurance committee on February 21st in support of SB 577, which would eliminate the cost disparity between oral and intravenous chemotherapy treatment and thereby decrease the out-of-pocket costs to patients. John will emphasize the importance of access to all cancer patients and the positive economic impact oral chemotherapy will have on the state.

Wisconsin – West Bend Area Myeloma Support Group Leader and caregiver, Sue Enright and support group member and patient, Tom Chelius are scheduled to testify on February 23rd in the Assembly Insurance Committee. The pair will speak on behalf of the IMF and myeloma patients in support of AB 151, which would provide equitable insurance coverage for all cancer treatments for patients in Wisconsin based on therapeutic benefit, not based on how the drug is administered.

Nebraska – Jim Omel, leader of the Central Nebraska Myeloma Support Group contacted his state Senator Mike Gloor to encourage him to vote in favor of LB 882, the chemotherapy access bill. Sen. Gloor serves on the Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee where the bill was referred and awaits a vote.

Thank you Josephine, Jerry, John, Sue, Tom, and Jim for your initiative and hard work!

Happenings on the Hill

HR 2746 Update
Since our last advocacy update, we have six new cosponsors to HR 2746, the Cancer Drug Coverage Parity Act. From California, Representatives Napolitano, Chu and Capps signed onto the bill. New York Representatives King and Ackerman have also signed onto the bill, and Representative Moran from Virginia has as well. We hope to get many more cosponsors this year.

President’s 2013 Budget
On Monday, President Obama released his budget proposal for the 2013 fiscal year. Congress does not have to adhere to this budget, but it tends to provide a starting place for discussions when working on spending bills. In the budget proposal, the White House kept the funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at last year’s level, which is approximately $30 billion. Many anticipate that advocates will lobby Congress and that hopefully, Congress will increase the NIH budget next year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) cancer control programs are also being funded at last year’s levels with no increases. Although instead of funding those programs directly through the CDC budget, it appears that the President’s budget proposal transfers money from the Prevention and Public Health Fund created during health reform to cover those cancer control programs. This may upset many advocates who support prevention programs, which could pressure Congress to change the source of funding for these programs and affect their funding. While we are pleased that the President did not recommend cutting the NIH and CDC budgets, the IMF will advocate for increasing their budgets as Congress works on the appropriations legislation to fund the agencies.

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