The Senate approves a bill (SB-300) making oral chemotherapy drugs more affordable to cancer patients. Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), a 10-year survivor of breast cancer, says experts tell her oral chemo is the wave of the future.
“So, in a big way today we’re bringing our statutes up to speed with what the technology is on this drug, and the fact that one is a procedure and one is a pharmaceutical.”
The legislation requires health insurance coverage of expensive chemo pills, just as they do for traditional chemotherapy administered through an IV.
Despite bipartisan support, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) blocked a vote on the measure last week. Some Republicans in that chamber were prepared to go against their leader and pull the bill to the floor.
Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) planned to offer a series of amendments in order to trigger debate on the legislation.
In a turnaround, Senator Fitzgerald said he would bring the proposal up for a vote, and then Erpenbach withdrew all his amendments.
Many lawmakers stood up and encouraged colleagues to pressure their friends in the Assembly to pass the legislation without changes. Senator Bob Jauch (D-Poplar) says the Senate vote would be moot if the other house does nothing.
“Every member who votes for this bill should publicly plead, demand, insist that the Assembly take up the bill and adopt it because the votes are there.”
AUDIO: Jauch 2:18
The Senate vote was 30-2, with Senators Paul Farrow and Leah Vukmir voting against the measure.
Opponents called it another mandate on the insurance industry that would drive up health costs in the long run.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) says his caucus has not thoroughly discussed the measure, but will likely talk about it on Thursday. Several members of his chamber say they’ll pull the bill to the floor. It must pass the full legislature before going to the governor’s desk.