It is rare that Florida's lawmakers are called upon to support an issue that requires no legislative action. As Congress struggles in Washington to address the issue of health care, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and Humana Inc. urge our leaders in the Florida Legislature - Senate President Jeff Atwater and House Speaker Larry Cretul - to support a health care issue that will prove to be a tremendous benefit to cancer patients, health care providers and insurers alike.
According to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, cancer clinical trials are a critical part of the process of finding better treatments for leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma. Forty years ago, a blood cancer diagnosis was a near death sentence for a child. Today, due in part to nearly 60 percent of pediatric cancer patients participating in clinical trials, the survival rate is more than 95 percent for children with Hodgkin lymphoma and more than 90 percent for children with acute lymphocytic leukemia, the most common form of leukemia among children.
Unfortunately, adult blood cancer patients do not enjoy the same statistics. The participation rate among adults in clinical trials is only 3 to 5 percent nationally. A major barrier to increasing the participation rate is the potential for a patient to lose insurance coverage for routine patient care simply because he or she is participating in a clinical trial.
Routine patient care costs for a patient participatingin a clinical trial typically include nursing services, inpatient care and a range of diagnostics that are usually the same care costs incurred by insurers for patients in standard therapy. Without this insurance coverage, a patient may have to pay out of pocket for routine care or simply chose not to participate in a clinical trial altogether - a result that is counterproductive to cancer research efforts.
So far, 28 states have some sort of requirement for health insurance carriers to provide insurance coverage of routine patient costs for an individual participating in a cancer clinical trial. Three of the states - Georgia, New Jersey and Michigan - have worked with the insurance industry and developed voluntary consensus agreements. Georgia's agreement has been signed by eight private insurance carriers including five that we also have in Florida - Humana, Aetna, United, Blue Cross and CIGNA.
In Florida, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and Humana Inc. have joined forces with the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation to help craft a similar, nonlegislative solution to tackling the issue of covering routine patient care for cancer clinical trial participants. This effort is not focused on creating an insurance mandate but instead on bringing all interested parties to the table to craft a voluntary agreement outside the legislative process.
The result is simple - Floridians benefit not only from the increased access to new cancer clinical trials but from the resulting research that will come out of the clinical trial. This research may primarily benefit those individuals who have yet to be diagnosed with cancer.
Many Floridians have been touched by cancer or been faced with a cancer diagnosis themselves. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and Humana Inc. encourage both Senate President Jeff Atwater and House Speaker Larry Cretul to publicly support to this effort.
Connie Mack is a former U.S. senator from Florida. Jill M. Sumfest is the market medical officer, Humana Commercial Division, South Florida.