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

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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.