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Missouri Governor Signs Cancer Legislation at Siteman Cancer Center

July 7, 2006 – For the past 12 years, John DiPersio, MD, PhD, and colleagues at the Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine have traveled en masse to Jefferson City in an effort to lobby the Missouri legislature about expanding medical coverage for cancer patients.

After more than a decade, DiPersio says, “I’m delighted to say we’ve finally succeeded.”

DiPersio, deputy director of Siteman was one of the close to 100 witnesses to a July 7 press conference at at the cancer center, where Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt made DiPersio’s efforts worthwhile.

By signing senate bill 567, Blunt put it into law that health insurers must cover primary health costs for cancer patients involved in approved phase II clinical trials. According to DiPersio, phase II trials make up the majority of experimental therapies used to treat cancer patients.

"All Missourians benefit from clinical trials as new treatment options generated by this invaluable research could vastly improve patient health and ultimately save lives," says Blunt. "This important piece of legislation will help doctors and researchers collect vital information as they fight to cure cancer."

Under the new law, health insurers will be required to cover primary and routine patient care for those involved in phase II clinical trials for cancer treatment. This expands existing statutes that require health insurers to cover primary care for phase III and IV clinical trials.

“Before this bill, there were patients not able to get lifesaving therapies because many insurers felt some illnesses a patient had while on a phase II trial could be blamed on these investigative treatments,” says DiPersio. “Many patients would avoid trials because they felt they’d be on the hook for extreme financial losses.”

Clinical trials are vital in providing the best possible care for cancer patients and ultimately contribute to finding a cure for cancer. Current practices used to combat cancer would not be possible without patients participating in clinical trials.

A living example is Rick Allenbrand, 48, of Springfield, Mo. He spoke at the press conference about his experience in several trials that helped save his life. In fact, seven years after being diagnosed with leukemia, DiPersio told him he is now cancer-free.

“People have the greatest health care in the world right here in the state of Missouri,” says Allenbrand. 

Senate bill 567, proposed by state Sen. Patrick Daugherty, also provides an incentive for employees to remain tobacco-free by allowing their employers to provide or contract for health insurance at a lower deductible level for employees who do not smoke or use tobacco products. Health insurers will now be able to offer reduced premium rates and lower deductibles to employees who do not use tobacco products.

The bill also requires health insurers to charge one co-payment on a prescription if the required single dosage is unavailable and a combination of dosage amounts is needed to fill the prescription.