Cancer Treatment Fairness

The future of cancer treatment is a pill taken orally. There’s just one problem. Most insurance companies pay for the intravenous chemo as a treatment with low co-pay. But doctors say paying for pills is another matter.

"If the best cancer care is in a pill form. It shouldn't cost more than it would cost them if they were getting it in a IV form if it were available," said Dr. Wayne Taylor.

The discrepancy brought Luke Webb of Miami to the Capitol on a mission to change the law. Five years ago he was diagnosed with cancer.

"The drugs that I was taking at the time are about three thousand five hundred dollars per month. I was having to pay out-of-pocket for them in order to acquire them to stay alive," said Cancer survivor Luke Webb.

State Representative Debbie Mayfield is championing the change. She lost her husband to cancer in 2008.

"They should not be discriminating between oral cancer treatment and an IV cancer treatment," said Mayfield.

Opposition here is coming from managed care providers or HMOs, who worry it could raise their cost.

Another legislator, David Wood of Daytona Beach, is currently taking oral cancer medication. He says the time has come for treatments to be handled equally.

"Somehow is cheaper to do it with a doctor and a nurse than to do it with a pill that makes no sense. It's counter intuitive," said Wood.

Intravenous and oral treatments are equally expensive. At least 21 other states have decided cancer patients needed to be treated equally when being prescribed one of the two.

Oregon became the first state to pass the fairness in treatment legislation in 2007. Cost studies are few and far between, but suggest the increased cost for insurers is about fifty cents per subscriber per month.