Florida Senate passes cancer treatments parity bill

8:20 PM, Apr 7, 2013   |    comments
Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto makes an emotional appeal on behalf of her bill, which creates parity in the cost of cancer medications. "This bill belongs to my mom."
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Tallahassee, Florida - State Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto makes an emotional appeal on behalf of legislation that would require insurance companies to charge the same price for IV and oral cancer drugs.

Benacquisto, R-Ft. Myers, choked up as she recalled her mother's two-year fight with cancer and how she sat in the doctor's office with an IV in her arm, watching the slow drip of the chemotherapy drugs.

"During that two years, I saw the day-to-day struggle of a cancer patient who sits in the doctor's office and feels the drip, the drip, the drip. It saved her for some time, and it gave her extra moments," said Benacquisto. "But this bill that you have helped us move- because without your co-sponsorships, without your faith, without your sending a message to the world that this was important for us to do- we wouldn't be here."

Sen. Benacquisto says IV medications for cancer typically cost patients about $30 for the insurance co-pay. But the same medication in oral form can cost thousands of dollars a month.

That reality creates a terrible dilemma for some cancer patients: will they go deep in debt or take a cheaper, but less effective, IV drug.

Benacquisto says not enough cancer patients are getting access to oral cancer medications. To emphasize that point, she paused during her closing speech and the entire Senate chamber fell silent.

"For every patient that gets the access to this medication- 324 new people every day- (pauses) that sound is the silence of people who won't get that access. So from the silence of folks who can't thank you, to the roar of your constituents who will know that you have made a difference in their lives, and in my mother's name, Patricia Kelly, we just say thank you."

The bill passed unanimously. Now it heads to the House.

Dave Heller, 10 News

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