Senate Introduces Oral Parity Bill
By Sydney Abbott, JD, Manager, Provider Economics and Public Policy, ACCC
On Thursday, December 19, 2013, Senators Al Franken (D-MN) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) introduced The Cancer Treatment Parity Act of 2013, a Senate companion bill to HR 1810, the House oral parity legislation. This is great news because all bills must pass both the House and Senate before going to the President for signature. Now, with a version of oral parity legislation in each chamber, momentum on this issue is accelerating.
This is really just a case of technology outpacing policy. Private insurance companies create inequity by charging higher out-of-pocket rates for oral anti-cancer drugs picked up at the pharmacy than for drugs that are infused by a cancer care provider in the physician office setting. When patients receive an IV infusion, they are responsible for a co-pay, generally around $30. However, when a physician prescribes an oral drug to be filled by the pharmacy, the patient is responsible for some percentage of the total drug cost—in the case of oral chemotherapies, this can be thousands of dollars per month out of pocket. The proposed oral parity legislation would prohibit insurance companies from charging patients more than the IV-infused rate, no matter the form of administration.
While oral chemotherapies make up a small portion of the oncology drug market currently, that rate is increasing. Some estimate that oral anti-cancer medications make up 30% or more of the oncology development pipeline. This is why it is important to pass federal oral chemotherapy legislation now. The Association of Community Cancer Centers will continue to be on the front line of this issue, and we will keep our members updated.