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Tuesday June 30th, 2015 5:27PM

House passes Hawkins' cancer treatment bill; Senate OKs Gooch's watershed measure

By Ken Stanford Reporter
ATLANTA- The Georgia House of Representatives has passed House Bill 943, the Cancer Treatment Fairness Act, sponsored by Rep. Lee Hawkins of Gainesville. Meanwhile, the state Senate has OK'd a watershed protection bill authored by Sen. Steve Gooch of Dahlonega.

Hawkins' bill would prevent cancer patients from paying higher out-of-pocket costs for oral medications than they would for medications administered intravenously.

"We need to give cancer patients affordable access to the most recently developed and most effective therapies, whether it is in oral or IV form," Hawkins said. "Cancer is a devastating disease. Patients and their families face enormous challenges without having to worry about breaking the bank or having no access at all. HB 943 will provide an economical alternative."

Under measure, insurance companies that cover intravenously administered chemotherapy must also cover orally administered chemotherapy as an equally favorable benefit, regardless of the benefit category determination. HB 943 also sets a limit of a $200 maximum out-of-pocket cost per filled prescription that an insured patient may pay for orally administered chemotherapy.

Hawkins citied recent studies he says have shown that the wholesale actual costs for many oral chemotherapy drugs are comparable to the same medication given by IV. However, patients typically spend more out-of-pocket costs for those medicines administered orally. This disparity exists because of an insurance industry practice that places IV anticancer treatments under a plan's medical benefit and oral anticancer therapies under the pharmacy benefit. Additionally, pharmacy benefits often require the patient to pay a percentage of the total cost of the drug, while many medical insurance plans require the patient to pay a co-pay only.

GOOCH'S BILL

The Georgia Senate passed Senate Bill 299 by a vote of 46-7. Sponsored by Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega), it transfers oversight of watershed management regulations to local governments and also offers protection to landowner rights.

"I have been working to improve these regulations since I was elected Lumpkin County Commissioner in 2001, and this legislation bill is the result of many open conversations with stakeholders, local officials and Environmental Protection Division representatives. This bill is the right step towards more efficient water conservation practices and still protects the rights of Georgia property owners," Gooch said.

The bill clarifies minimum standards for watershed protection and empowers local government to draft customized watershed protection plans to "better serve area needs. It ensures full compliance of the Soil Erosion and Sedimentation Act and continues to protect the beautiful trout streams of the Blue Ridge Mountains."

The measure now goes to the state House for consideration.
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