Kentucky passes cancer testing mandate for insurers

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky lawmakers have overwhelmingly passed a bill that would require health insurers to cover “ biomarker tests ” that can help determine the best cancer treatment plans for patients.

The bipartisan measure won final passage on Monday, and was hailed as a consequential step in a state long plagued by high rates of cancers.

“This bill would allow for coverage to be mandated at a minimal cost,” Republican Senate President Robert Stivers said Monday while touting the bill in the Senate. “And I would argue that if you know what to spend upfront, in the long term you will actually save money and that it would have a positive impact on the cash-flow system of our health care.”

For patients, the result can be a “customized treatment plan,” Stivers said.

The tests screen patients for genes, proteins and other substances, giving doctors information about a patient’s condition and how the patient will react to certain medications based on their genetic makeup. Obtaining genetic information allows for targeted treatment.

The far-reaching measure — House Bill 180 — was passed by the Senate on 34-0 vote, sending it to Gov. Andy Beshear. The bill won House passage on a 97-0 vote last month.

“I think it’s one of the better bills we’ll do this session,” Stiver said.

Democratic Sen. Karen Berg said the biomarker tests are “extremely important” and represent “the future of medicine.” Berg recalled that during her own battle with cancer, that testing was “the one thing my insurance company refused to cover.”

The bill would require health benefit plans to cover biomarker screenings for patients diagnosed with cancer as well as other diseases.

“Early, precision testing results in improved quality of life, better health outcomes and reduces the costs of overall treatment,” said bill sponsor Republican Rep. Kimberly Poore Moser.

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