ADVOCACY ALERT: Let Your Voice Be Heard in Jefferson City

Susan G. Komen® St. Louis, as a member of The Missouri Coalition for Cancer Treatment Access (MCCTA), is supporting state legislation that would ensure cancer patients in Missouri have equal access to IV (intravenous) and oral chemotherapy.

MissouriFlagOral chemotherapies allow patients the ability to continue to work and contribute to the economy because these therapies are self-administered and often have fewer side effects. More than 25% of the 400 chemotherapy drugs currently in the development pipeline are oral therapies.

Intravenous chemotherapy treatments, which are covered as a medical benefit, require a flat insurance co-payment. However, because oral therapies are covered as a pharmacy benefit, patients can be charged up to 50% of the cost of the drug; this can mean hundreds or thousands of dollars paid out-of-pocket each month, even if the oral therapy is the only treatment available for their cancer.

PLEASE TAKE ACTION

Legislation has been proposed in both the Missouri State Senate and Missouri State House of Representatives to require health plans that cover cancer treatments to make the out-of-pocket expenses to patients equal. Please take action today to ensure these bills move forward.

Your voice is critical to ensure HB 1327/SB 663 or SB 668 become law this year. The process starts with the proposed legislation being sent to the committees that will allow a fair public hearing. With only a handful of days until the bills are referred to committee, the time to act is now.

TWO SIMPLE WAYS YOU CAN HELP TODAY

1. Please request that House Speaker, Representative Tim Jones, refer HB 1327 to the Special Standing Committee on Emerging Issues in Healthcare. This committee, chaired by Representative Todd Richardson, heard the bill during the 2013 legislative session.

Representative Jones can be reached at tim.jones@house.mo.gov or 573.751.0562.

Sample Email Text:

Dear Representative Jones,

As you are well aware, House Bill 1327, which would require oral therapy for cancer to be covered in a manner equal to that of IV treatment, is currently waiting to be assigned to a committee. This issue is critical to cancer patients in Missouri.

Please refer HB 1327 to the Special Standing Committee on Emerging Issues in Healthcare.

Thank you.

[Your Name]

2. Please request that Senate President Pro Tem, Senator Tom Dempsey, refer SB 663 and SB 668 to the Senate Small Business Insurance and Industry Committee, chaired by Senator Scott Rupp.

Senator Dempsey can be reached at tom.dempsey@senate.mo.gov or 573.751.1141.

Sample Email Text:

Dear Senator Dempsey,

As you are well aware, Senate Bills 663 and 668, which both require oral therapy for cancer to be covered in a manner equal to that of IV treatment, are currently waiting to be assigned to a committee. This issue is critical to cancer patients in Missouri.

Please refer these bills to the Senate Small Business Insurance and Industry Committee, chaired by Senator Scott Rupp.

Thank you.

[Your Name]

Thank you for your time supporting this effort.

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Susan G. Komen Missouri Affiliates Visit Jefferson City as Part of Missouri Coalition for Cancer Treatment Access

Komen St. Louis joined with Komen Greater Kansas City and Komen Mid-Missouri in Jefferson City as part of the Missouri Coalition for Cancer Treatment Access’ support of oral chemotherapy parity legislation. This statewide patient advocacy coalition is calling on the Missouri Legislature to act on the proposed bill during the 2014 session.

Komen Kansas City’s Theresa Osenbaugh and Carli Good, Missouri State Rep. Sheila Solon, Komen St. Louis Executive Director Helen Chesnut, Komen Mid-Missouri Executive Director Kathy Adams  and Komen St. Louis’ Janet Vigen Levy in Jefferson City, MO on Jan. 15

Komen Kansas City’s Theresa Osenbaugh and Carli Good, Missouri State Rep. Sheila Solon, Komen St. Louis Executive Director Helen Chesnut, Komen Mid-Missouri Executive Director Kathy Adams and Komen St. Louis’ Janet Vigen Levy in Jefferson City, MO on Jan. 15

Read about the proposed legislation in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Here is text of the news release distributed by the Missouri Coalition for Cancer Treatment Access:

JEFFERSON CITY – On behalf of thousands of Missouri cancer patients, survivors and their families, the Missouri Coalition for Cancer Treatment Access, applauds the proposed state legislation that would give cancer patients access to the most effective cancer treatments and calls on the Legislature to pass the law in 2014.

Currently, cancer patients in Missouri are forced to choose between the chemotherapy that could save their lives or one that is fully covered by their insurance. The legislation proposed by Rep. Sheila Solon and Sens. Brian Munzlinger and Ryan Silvey would bring insurance coverage parity to both forms of chemotherapy – intravenous (IV) and pill form – simply requiring plans to have the same out-of-pocket costs for oral chemotherapy products if traditional chemotherapies are already covered.

Scientific advancements during the past several years have increased the availability and effectiveness of oral medications for cancer treatment. Up to 35 percent of all current drugs in the pipeline are oral treatments, adding new and less invasive alternatives to traditional intravenous (IV) chemotherapy infusions for treatment of at least 54 different types of cancer.

“In many cases, oral chemotherapy offers advantages important to overall quality of life for our patients and their caregivers, including the convenience of not having to travel several times a week for IV infusions that can take several hours each time,” said Debbie Kersting, executive director, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society – Gateway Chapter.

This flexibility is particularly important for people living in rural areas, who otherwise would have to travel long distances to the nearest treatment facility. In addition, these treatments allow patients the ability to continue to work and contribute to the economy because they are self-administered, and often have fewer side effects.

However, because oral cancer drugs in Missouri are covered as a pharmacy benefit, patients can be charged high co-insurances, up to 50 percent of the cost of the therapy, even if the oral drugs are the only treatment available. This can result in out-of-pocket costs of hundreds to thousands of dollars each month. Sadly, several studies show 25 percent of patients do not fill their initial prescriptions for cancer pills when the co-pays exceed $500.

“These patients are literally fighting for their lives and we should do everything we can to make certain that our insurance system treats them with compassion, respect and fairness. The specific treatment should be left to the patient and his or her doctor and devoid of financial pressure that result from unnecessary and archaic insurance coverage laws,” said Dr. Bruce J. Roth, professor of medicine, Washington University.

To date, 27 states and the District of Columbia have passed oral chemotherapy parity legislation to help equalize patient out-of-pocket costs, modernize health insurance and improve cancer care.

Komen St. Louis Community Partner: Southern Illinois Healthcare Foundation’s START NOW Breast Cancer Awareness Services

Community Partner

Perhaps one of the most amazing aspects of the human experience is the impact that one group of people can have on the lives of others. The team at the START NOW Breast Cancer Awareness Services program at the Southern Illinois Healthcare Foundation is working hard to make their impact a positive one.

“The START NOW program enriches and ensures women the ability to get the mammography service or breast health-related services they need,” says Debra Custer, treatment navigator and program manager. “My basic role is that I am the last link of the continuum of care when it comes to being diagnosed with breast cancer. I provide the emotional support, some of the psychological support, and any financial support that the patient might need in reducing any barriers for treatment.”

The START NOW program assists those living with breast cancer while also serving those who may be unsure of their breast health status. The program helps these women find out just where they stand.

Komen St. Louis has provided funding for this program for six years.

“Recently, we had a breast cancer survivor appreciation luncheon and we had invited all the survivors and women that we have come in contact with since the program’s inception in 2008,” says Debra. “There was one lady who came and it turned out that she did have breast cancer. She said that if it had not been for the START NOW program letting her know that there are financial services available for women to get mammography services, she does not know what condition she would be in at this time. She’s now in her third year of recovery.”

Debra recalls another woman who brought in her mother for a biopsy. “I just happened to turn to her and ask if she had any services done,” says Debra. “She said that she hadn’t but that she would wait to have them done. So I encouraged her to seek medical treatment and get her mammogram done, and she kept putting it off and putting it off. About six months later, we got her mammogram done and she did have breast cancer; she was Stage 3. She’s had some setbacks in her recovery, but she’s still with us.”

These life-changing experiences are what keep the START NOW team motivated to do their part in helping the community. Although the program has done much already to aid breast cancer patients, there is always more to look forward to in the future.

“My hope is to increase [breast health and breast cancer] awareness, because there are still women in our community who are behind in receiving mammography services. They’re not getting how important it is that they still maintain good breast health,” says Debra. “We have to change the mentality of who we are to our families. Let’s not put an additional hardship on the family because we’re no longer there. And now we’ve continued to reduce the financial barriers to getting your mammography services.”

Komen St. Louis funding allows the START NOW program to continue increasing this critical breast health awareness and offering breast health services to those who may not otherwise obtain such care.

In 2013, Komen St. Louis granted $2.2 million to 13 local breast health programs in our 17-county Missouri/Illinois service area, including Southern Illinois Healthcare Foundation’s START NOW Breast Cancer Awareness Services program. These grants help fund breast health and breast cancer screening, education and patient navigation services for those in our community who otherwise may not have access due to low income, lack of insurance or other barriers.