ANNAPOLIS, MD – A coalition of physician and patient advocacy groups today joined Delegate Shirley Nathan-Pulliam (D-Baltimore County) and Senator James Mathias (D-Ocean City) in praising Governor Martin O’Malley for signing legislation that increases access to life-saving anti-cancer medications for thousands of Marylanders. The Kathleen A Mathias Chemotherapy Parity Improvement Act of 2014 (HB 625 and SB 641) will expand Maryland’s oral chemotherapy parity law, previously passed in 2012, to apply to all state regulated health plans.
“Two years ago we passed legislation removing the inequities that exist between how health plans charge patients for intravenous and oral anti-cancer medications and created greater access to life saving medications for our citizens,” said Delegate Nathan-Pulliam, the lead sponsor in the House of Delegates. “This year’s legislation expands protections and expands oral anti-cancer treatment parity to all insurance plans offered in and regulated by Maryland laws.”
“We’re elated that every patient will be able to get equal coverage for their most appropriate and effective cancer medication,” said Senator Mathias, the lead sponsor of the legislation in the Senate. “We’ve already helped Maryland keep pace with the progress made in the science of treating cancer. Now even more Marylanders will have access to these medications.”
Joining Delegate Nathan-Pulliam and Senator Mathias, an active coalition advocated expanding this law including the International Myeloma Foundation, National Patient Advocate Foundation, Maryland/DC Society of Clinical Oncology, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and other patient focused organizations.
“Oral anti-cancer treatments are the result of years of research to save lives and improve the quality of life for cancer patients,” said John Gibson, state government affairs director for LLS. “Financial parity between infused and oral anti-cancer treatments gives the cancer patient and oncologists greater access to the best cancer treatment for the diagnosed cancer without placing a finical burden on the cancer patient and the patient’s family.”
Bonita M. Pennino, state government relations director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, said oral chemotherapy offers an opportunity to dramatically improve the quality of life for many cancer patients. “This is a great day for cancer patients throughout Maryland,” Pennino said. “Kathleen Mathias played a huge role for the American Cancer Society, volunteering hours of time to help other patients. This legislation is a great tribute to all of her work for cancer patients.”
The legislation is named in honor of Kathleen A. Mathias, the wife of Senator Jim Mathias of Ocean City, who lost her battle with cancer at age 58 in 2011. In the final votes in the House and Senate, the legislation was approved unanimously.
Contact: John Gibson
Director, State Government Affairs The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society