National State Affairs Consultant Zina Cary, along with 20 advocates from three IMF support groups joined the Wisconsin Coalition for Cancer Treatment Access (WCCTA) and the bill’s legislative champions, Senator Alberta Darling and Representative Pat Strachota in Madison on Wednesday showing the broad support for the Cancer Treatment Fairness Act (SB 300). “After nearly three years of working to advance legislation,” Zina shares, “the hearing before the Senate Committee on Insurance and Housing was the first major breakthrough in the process to pass an oral drug parity bill in Wisconsin. And with 74 advocates supporting the bill in attendance and only three folks opposing, we made everyone aware of the need for SB 300.”
Wisconsin Myeloma ACTION Team leader Mary Polancih recalls about the day, “As I stepped into the Wisconsin State Capitol rotunda I could feel the energy and hear the buzz of advocates from across Wisconsin gathered to attend the first committee hearing on (SB 300). When we crowded into the hearing room, we surprised the committee who had to open an overflow room. “
The coalition came out swinging with powerful testimony from IMF Myeloma ACTION Team leader Tom Chelius, who was the first patient to explain why this bill is so important to myeloma patients many of whom have both IV and oral drugs as part of their treatment plans. “The IMF has launched a research program called the Black Swan Research Initiative™,” Tom testified, “Its purpose is specifically to find a cure for myeloma. It is my understanding that this cure will come from combinations of medications, and, ultimately, access to the entire range of these anti-cancer medications, oral or IV, is vital. A patient will likely be on a sub-optimal treatment plan without access to oral medication. “After the fact Tom shared, “I am NOT a public speaker at all, usually a lot of ummms and ahhhhs. Today went much smoother than normal. Even during the process, I thought to myself, “who is this guy talking??? But then I knew I was speaking for every myeloma patient in Wisconsin and I was drawing strength from every patient in the room and in our state.”
Zina Cary followed lobbyists from the insurance industry and broke down their arguments point by point by explaining just why this bill is so critical to cancer patients in the twenty first century. One great example of this happened during the proceedings, when one of the committee members explained he is a cancer survivor, who a number of years ago, had endured a lengthy and painful cancer battle using traditional chemotherapy. He was very interested to hear that current treatments using oral drugs may be making the journey of others less harrowing.
After two hours of testimony for and against the bill, we will now wait for the committee to vote in the coming weeks. There are still many steps between today and the day Wisconsin can become the 28th state to pass this type of legislation and we will not stop until that day comes. “This day left me encouraged and strengthened,” says Mary. “After listening to opposing testimony, I am better prepared to advocate more effectively for oral drug parity. Moreover, I have seen that we have the strength of numbers to move this bill forward. I’m ready for what comes next.”