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Bill Could Mean Quicker Treatment for Cancer Patients

Panel of bill supporters.
A panel of supporters talk about legislation that would stop insurance companies from requiring step therapy provisions for Stage IV cancer treatment.

Ohio lawmakers want to make it easier to connect cancer patients with the best treatment possible by removing insurance-related hurdles. Supporters of the bill say this can be vital when time is of the essence.

A bipartisan Senate bill would do away with what's known as "step therapy" for stage four cancer patients. This is when an insurance company can require a patient to try a cheaper treatment before going with what a doctor has prescribed. Critics call it the "fail first" system.

David Cohn, chief medical officer at the OSU James Cancer Hospital, says step therapy can delay a patient from starting a more effective treatment.

"So it adds very important time on to a patient's schedule and it's that time that we're fighting against," Cohn said. "A patient with a stage four cancer doesn't always have that time."  

State Sen. Bob Hackett (R-London), says he's usually a supporter of step therapy and recognizes the value of it for other treatments. But he says stage four cancer is a different circumstance where a patient needs what doctors see as the most effective treatment immediately.

"That's where I think it's real important because once again, stage four cancer, it's a really difficult situation for people to be in. And people do make it! And when you talk to people who make it, they'll say to you speed was everything," Hackett said.

A bill signed earlier this year put more regulations on step therapy, which insurers opposed. Bill sponsors say insurance companies will still have the right to prior authorization before a patient's treatment is covered.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.