Diane Primavera, our local Colorado state representative from Broomfield, has proposed a bill that would prevent health insurance companies from canceling existing policies of insureds who choose to enroll in clinical trials of experimental treatments.
Rep Primavera (D) is a 20 year breast cancer survivor who was treated with Tamoxifen before it was approved for widespread use in the treatment of breast cancer. My own father was treated in an experimental trial with Rituxan (Rituximab) in an effort to bring about remission from Wegener’s granulomatosis. His WG has been in remission for nearly three years, since the Rituxan treatment. Experimental therapies don’t always work. And when they do work, they don’t work for everyone. But for Rep. Primavera and my father, they did a world of good.
It’s difficult enough to be diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. But it’s even harder when standard therapies don’t work. It makes sense that patients would turn to clinical trials of experimental treatments if there are any available. Primavera’s bill doesn’t hold health insurance companies liable for charges incurred as a result of the experimental treatment – that would fall to the drug maker or hospital running the trial. But the bill would prevent health insurance carriers from dropping members who choose to seek these experimental treatments. After all the mess that health insurance companies have had recently with canceling policies, it seems that they would want to avoid any semblance of improper cancellations. Primavera’s bill should just be a reminder to health insurance companies that there is a lot more at stake in healthcare than money. When people are faced with their own mortality, they should be able to seek treatment outside the standard realm if necessary. And while it does make sense that health insurance companies limit claims payment to approved therapies (otherwise they would be inundated with bills for alternative therapies – some legitimate, some quackery), I agree with Primavera that people shouldn’t have to risk a cancellation of their health insurance policy in order to seek experimental treatment in a clinical trial.
Rep. Primavera works tirelessly on healthcare reform for the people of Colorado, and we applaud her efforts.