JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Thousands of cancer patients across Jacksonville may soon feel some relief with the cost of treatment.
The Florida legislature is considering bills (SB 422 / HB 301) that would reduce the cost of oral pill chemotherapy.
It’s a relief to patients like Bobbi deCordova-Hanks, a 27-year-survivor of three different forms of cancer, who has tried both intravenous and pill forms of chemotherapy in the past.
“It's just thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars. I just recently paid off a 24-year loan that covered some of my treatments.”
Like others in her Bosom Buddies cancer support group, deCordova-Hanks is paying big for life.
“I hear from women of all ages and it breaks my heart because they tell me, ‘I'm not going to die of cancer, I'm going to die of paperwork.’”
Over the past 10 years, chemotherapy treatments have advanced from IV’s that require regular, hours-long visits to the doctor, to a pill that you can take at home.
“This is the way cancer treatment is going,” says Dr. Cynthia Anderson, a Radiation Oncologist with the Baptist Cancer Institute.
Anderson says insurance companies are falling behind with their coverage options. Companies often cover IV treatments under medical plans, but pill treatments under drug plans with different co-pays, deductibles and pricing. Pill treatments can run in the thousands of dollars.
“The side effects can be less than with the IV treatment and they're just as effective, so we need to bring insurance companies up to date.”
That’s why the Florida House and Senate are considering the Cancer Treatment Fairness Act, which would require insurance companies to cover all cancer treatments the same way. Supporters like deCordova-Hanks say it’s a bill that would keep patients focused on living, instead of paying to survive.
“If the insurance companies would cover it, the expense for us would go down tremendously.”
So far, only two senators and two representatives have voted against the act in subcommittee hearings. Although he says it’s a worthy effort, Sen. John Tobia says his staff research found that the act would be the 60th mandate on private health insurance, and would add to the rising cost of health insurance for Florida families.
Right now, the act is before both the Senate and House appropriations committees.
According to the National Patient Advocate Foundation, 19 other states have already passed similar laws.