UPDATE: Senate passes oral chemotherapy bill Tuesday - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: Senate passes oral chemotherapy bill Tuesday

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MADISON (WKOW) -- For the second time in two weeks the Wisconsin State Senate debated a bill designed to force insurance companies to cover oral, pill-based chemotherapy at the same level they cover intravenous chemotherapy for cancer patients.

That's because the original bill passed by the Senate on March 18th was changed in the Assembly, which amended it to require patients to make a $100 co-pay each month for prescriptions.

"Look, I'm not happy with this amendment, I'm not happy with it," said the bill's author, Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills).  "I liked our bill a lot better. I sent out a recommendation that the Assembly look at our bill and not amend it.  That didn't fly."

"I'm not happy with the amendment," Sen. Rick Gudex (R-Fond du Lac) concurred.  "I'm also a realist.  I do not believe that the Assembly's going to come back to take this up."

Fear the bill could die for a third straight legislative session prompted Republicans to push for its passage, even in an imperfect form.  But Democrats argued the bill as amended is more than just imperfect.

"It is silent on their ability to charge the consumer, the cancer patient, more in the area of co-pays and deductibles," argued Sen. Tim Cullen (D-Janesville), who said the bill provides a loophole for insurance companies to shift costs above that $100/month mark.

"Its not a $100 co-pay," said Sen. Jon Erpenbach. "Its a $100 co-pay, per prescription, per month."

But cancer patients advocating for the bill don't share the concerns of those Democratic senators.

"We've gotten opinions from the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance and others that it is intended to be a cap of out-of-pocket responsibility for the patient of $100," said Paul Westrick, a cancer survivor who sits on the Board of Directors for the Wisconsin chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Westrick and others say they can live with that cost.

"$100 a month is not small change, but compared to the cost of the drug if people have that as an upper limit and it provides that certainty, its a good thing," said Westrick.

The Senate ultimately passed the amended version of the bill 26-7.  It now goes Governor Scott Walker's (R-Wisconsin) desk for a signature.


MADISON (WKOW) -- The Wisconsin Senate passed a bill Tuesday that would make chemotherapy drugs in pill form more affordable.

The bill passed on a bipartisan 26 to 7 vote. Gov. Scott Walker has said he will sign the bill.


MADISON (WKOW) -- The Wisconsin Senate is holding its last scheduled day of this legislative session on Tuesday, and senators are expected to pass a bill that would make chemotherapy drugs in pill form more affordable.

The proposal would lower the cost of oral chemotherapy drugs by making health insurers cover the oral chemo at the same level they do traditional, intravenous chemotherapy.

The Senate passed a previous version of the bill on a 30-2 vote before the Assembly amended it to impose a $100 per month co-pay limit.

That change is expected to be approved by the Senate on Tuesday and Governor Scott Walker has said he will sign the bill into law.

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