NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – While clutching three precious pills she takes daily as part of her chemotherapy, leukemia patient Beth Mullen told News 2 how she has spent the last three days on Tennessee’s Capitol Hill as a face and voice for what she calls “parity” in cancer treatment.
The retired University of Tennessee biochemist is supporting and advocating for a bill called the Cancer Treatment Fairness Act (HB 1059).
Supporters like Mullen say the measure aims to reduce barriers and lower costs for people like her who take chemotherapy orally, such as her daily pills, rather than the more traditional methods of IV or injection.
Advocates argue that injections or IV are typically covered by a patients medical insurance, while oral treatments are usually part of a health plans pharmacy benefit which can result in high out-of-pocket costs.
Mullen says it’s a difference of $9000 yearly for her, but most important–her oral chemotherapy is working better than years of getting it by IV.
“I would not be here if the drugs, the oral drugs, had not been developed that are very targeted to the leukemic cells,” she told News 2. “Chemo by IV had stopped working.”
Most major insurance companies are opposed to the bill, citing it as a mandate and a measure that would simply make a lot money for pharmaceutical companies.
Rep. Ron Travis, who is also an insurance agent, warned that if the bill passes “every constituent we have that does not work for the state of TN will have a rate increase.”
Travis argued there other avenues such different policies, health savings accounts, drug company help or even loans to help pay for oral chemo, but he and another Rep. Tim Rudd took aim at the pharmaceutical companies for increasing the oral chemo costs yearly by double digits and making big profits.
Mullen just hopes this state joins much of the nation.
“Tennessee is one of only eight states that don’t have this parity in cancer treatment,” she added
After a lengthy debate Wednesday afternoon, a vote on the measure was postponed at least a week.