LANSING, Mich., Feb. 2, 2023 — State Rep. Samantha Steckloff (D-Farmington Hills) introduced House Bill 4071 today. This bill would provide parity for those fighting cancer when it comes to the cost and convenience of their treatment. Currently, chemotherapy received at a hospital or clinic is billed as a service, making it cheaper than chemotherapy taken orally at home and billed as a drug. HB 4071 was referred to the Health Policy Committee.

“Despite this same legislation being introduced in multiple legislative terms with bipartisan support, we still haven’t been able to get this bill to the governor’s desk,” Steckloff said. “Meanwhile, people with cancer have been forced to put their lives on hold to receive chemotherapy in a hospital or clinic instead of taking oral chemotherapy from the comfort and safety of their homes. As a breast cancer survivor, I know firsthand how radically a cancer diagnosis changes your whole life. Allowing cancer patients to receive the care they need while maintaining a sense of normalcy will be life-changing.”     

Megan Landry, who works at the American Cancer Society, knows the importance that this legislation would have on people battling cancer and their family and friends.

“When my dad was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer, he was told the prognosis was six months. Because of oral chemotherapy, which for him, was the only option to treat his lung tumors, he lived with his cancer for four and a half years,” Landry said. “Being on oral chemo provided my dad with an excellent quality of life — he had minimal side effects and was able to truly live his life and make memories with his wife, three children and two grandchildren. Unfortunately, my dad never got to meet my son, Zackary, his third grandchild. But one day, I hope I can tell Zackary that his grandpa’s story influenced Michigan lawmakers to pass a bill that would change the lives of countless individuals.”

Forty-three states already offer similar forms of this protection for those facing cancer. Studies and reports from insurance commissioners from around the country have shown that there is a minimal impact on premiums consumers pay in states that already provide parity for different chemotherapy treatments. 

“There are patients like my Dad who need the oral chemo option but cannot afford it,” Landry added. “The out-of-pocket cost to patients is simply something most people, like my family, cannot afford, leaving many with the unbearable option of using an inferior treatment or going broke trying to pay for oral chemo. There are 43 states that already have this protection, and it’s time for Michigan to have it too.”

“For roughly 10 years, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) has advocated for the passage of oral chemotherapy fairness legislation and will continue to do so this year,” said Molly Medenblik, government relations director with ACS CAN. “We are very much looking forward to working with Rep. Steckloff on this important legislation, and I know all the patients, family members, volunteers and many others who have worked on this legislation throughout the years are excited to finally get it across the finish line.”

Chemotherapy has been used by almost 640,000 Michiganders. Parity would lift another burden as they battle their cancer diagnosis for all those currently, and unfortunately all those who will need chemotherapy in the future. Being able to take an oral version of the same treatment affords them the safety of remaining in their home, allows them to continue to work and interact with others, and frees them from unneeded stress that comes along with fighting a life-threatening illness.

“This legislation would help address the unacceptable barriers to cancer care that occur when undue cost-sharing requirements are imposed upon individuals for oral anticancer medications,” said Dr. Jerome Seid, MD, FACP, who is a current board member and the former president of the Michigan Society of Hematology and Oncology. “Oncologists have options to treat cancer patients with oral anticancer medications that provide clinical advantages over traditional intravenous or injected cancer drugs due to the strides made in cancer treatment. In some instances, oral anticancer drugs may represent the best, or only, treatment option for patients with certain cancers. The Michigan Society of Hematology & Oncology fully supports this legislation to create parity for oral anticancer medications.”

“The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) proudly supports oral parity legislation, which would prohibit health plans from requiring cancer patients to pay an out-of-pocket cost for an oral therapy that is higher than the out-of-pocket required for an IV-administered cancer treatment,” said Lauren Edwards, the senior regional manager of government affairs (Mid-Atlantic) at LLS. “It’s a simple solution, intended to ensure that patients can reliably expect fair and consistent coverage for cancer treatment, even when those treatments happen to come in the form of a pill. LLS is hopeful that lawmakers in Michigan will embrace oral parity legislation, not only because it offers meaningful improvements in access to care but also because it adopts an approach that is fair and balanced.”