On Tuesday, March 6, 2018, the Patients Equal Access Coalition (PEAC), which is run by the IMF advocacy department, held an event in Washington, D.C. to relaunch the coalition as the Coalition to Improve Access to Cancer Care (CIACC). The relaunch effort is part of a larger process to enhance our ability to pass meaningful legislation. CIACC is unique in the diversity of its membership, including patient advocates, hospitals, biopharmaceutical companies, pharmacists and some of the country’s premier research institutions. The primary mission of the coalition is improving the quality of care and access for cancer patients.
The event included a presentation on the new name, logo, website, and polling information conducted on behalf of the coalition. 70% of those polled support legislation that would modernize insurance coverage to keep pace with medical innovations. H.R. 1409, the Cancer Drug Parity Act of 2017, would prevent insurance companies from applying different co-pays to oral cancer medicine than they do to chemotherapy or other injected treatments. In the 43 states and the District of Columbia, where comparable state laws are in place, 74% of cancer patients paid no co-pay for their treatments, regardless of form. Insurers also faced no cost increases. Unfortunately, those laws only impact patients under state regulated plans, about 40% of the market. H.R. 1409 is needed to cover the other 60% on federally regulated plans under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, better known as ERISA.
During the event, CIACC members and guests heard from Paul O’Hara, a CML patient in Pennsylvania who, before his state adopted legislation like H.R. 1409, paid several thousand dollars out of pocket every month for a daily pill that allows him to live a normal life. Paul described the choices he had to make between affording his medication and paying his other bills; about not being able to take his family on vacation, skipping doses to make the medication last longer and worrying about affording college for his daughters. In January, when Paul called his insurer to find out what his co-pay would be he was told that it was a new insurance year and he had not yet hit his deductible limit. Paul’s insurer told him his first round of oral pills would cost him $10,000. Luckily, Paul knew about the state law and made his insurance company aware as well. His new monthly bill is $50.
There are many more patients like Paul in Pennsylvania who work for large multi-state employers and who are not protected by these laws, even if their state has one. That is why on Wednesday, March 7th the CIACC stormed Capitol Hill to garner support for H.R. 1409. Five groups of CIACC members met with 37 House and Senate offices to spread awareness on the issue and ask for sponsorship.
With 136 current cosponsors, the Cancer Drug Parity Act of 2017 is gaining momentum, but we still need your help to cross the finish line. Click here to see if your Representative has become a sponsor. Check out the CIACC websiteto see how you can take action, or follow us on Twitter @CancerCare4All to keep up to date on the Coalition and chances to get involved. We can be reached by email at [email protected].