The Senate today passed Senate Bill 99, sponsored by Senator Scott Oelslager (R–North Canton), which would enhance the treatment of cancer patients in Ohio by ensuring that patients have affordable, safe and effective access to modern anti-cancer medications.

Oelslager jointly sponsored the measure with Senator Charleta Tavares (D–Columbus).

“Scientific breakthroughs have changed the way of treating and caring for cancer patients,” Oelslager said. “We need to focus on aligning our policies with technological advances in the medical field, making modern medication affordable and available.”

Senate Bill 99 would create equity in patients’ out of pocket costs for oral anti-cancer therapy by prohibiting insurers from providing less favorable coverage for orally administered cancer medications than what is offered for intravenously or injected medications. This change attempts to safeguard patients’ access to medication deemed most appropriate by their physician.

The legislation caps the amount that can be paid for orally administered cancer treatments to $100 per prescription filled. It also requires that the Ohio Department of Medicaid program cover oral cancer medications on at least the same basis that it covers intravenously administered or injected cancer medications.

“As more oral therapies become available to cancer patients, the design of health plan benefits must be modernized to reflect new methods of treating cancer,” Oelslager said. “Not only do oral therapies target cancer cells more directly, they also give an individual the opportunity to get back to work and live a more uninterrupted life.”

Currently, intravenous anti-cancer medications are typically covered under health plan’s medical benefits, requiring patients to only pay an office visit co-payment. Meanwhile, orally-administered anti-cancer medications are typically covered under a health plan’s pharmacy benefit and require higher co-payments, which can be a substantial percentage of the drug’s cost.

Similar legislation has been enacted in 28 other states and the District of Columbia.

Senate Bill 99 will now move to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

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