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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Lawmakers, insurers sign compact for cancer trial coverage



Compact Sen. Don Gaetz and Senate President Jeff Atwater (pictured, second from left) just signed a compact that guarantees insurance coverage for Floridians participating in clinical trials to treat their cancer.

Gaetz, chairman of the Senate's health regulation committee, negotiated the deal with health insurance companies including Humana, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, Aetna, Cigna, United Healthcare, AvMed Health Plans and Vista Healthplans. The companies are responsible for about 90 percent of Florida's group insurance market. Also supporting the deal are medical and consumer health groups including Moffitt Cancer Center, the American Cancer Society, and the Florida Medical Association.

"Nearly every Floridian has seen the struggles and the pains and the cost of cancer," said Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, during a press conference attended by lawmakers and insurance and medical industry representatives. "Individuals suffering and fighting cancer should not have the added stress of wondering whether their insurance will cover their care."

Florida is the fifth state to reach an agreement covering trials, and without any added cost or higher premiums. The voluntary compact includes coverage for patients in phase II, III and IV cancer clinical trials (those involving 100 or more patients) that are approved by the National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute, FDA, Department of Defense or accredited Florida medical schools and specialty hospitals.

The agreement won't cover the cost of investigational drugs and therapies, but those are typically covered by drug companies or research institutions engaged in the trials.

"These are the types of issues we come to Tallahassee to work on: issues that affect so many lives," said Rep. David Rivera, R-Miami, who worked with Gaetz on the compact. Check out this Senate report on the issue.

Medical groups and patient advocates lauded the compact, which also ensures early treatment for cancer by requiring insurers to cover the cost of preventive care and cancer screenings.

"This compact will ensure that no patient is unfairly denied care because of his or her decision to enroll in a cancer-related clinical trial," said Tim Stapleton, executive vice president of the FMA. "We are grateful for Sen. Gaetz's efforts."

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 1:14pm]


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