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Patients who get oral chemotherapy drugs pay tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars for their meds because those drugs are covered by their insurance drug plans instead of their regular insurance plan the way intravenous chemo is covered.   A bill introduced in the Wisconsin Legislature to provide equality in coverage had been blocked by Republican leadership (at the behest of the insurance  industry) despite the overwhelming bipartisan support of the legislation.   More history is available here.

The bill was blocked using political trickery, fake Committee "hearings", and other tactics until there was statewide news coverage about the obstruction and the overwhelming support the bill had from medical providers, cancer patients, and organizations involved in the fight against cancer.

In other words, Republican leaders got shamed during an election year;  the only time they even consider what the public thinks of them.

Even Scott Walker, who had said he "wasn't sure" about whether or not he'd sign it has changed his tune.  Yesterday, he asked for the bill to be passed.  Yes, he's running for re-election this year, too.  Another victory for shaming.

It worked.

The bill passed the State Senate with only 2 rabid Republicans opposing (even the State Senate Blocker-in-Chief voted for it).  Today, a watered down version passed the State Assembly.  The Senate and Assembly cannot reconcile the bill since today is the last day the Assembly is in session, so the State Senate will be required to pass the weakened measure before it's last day in session, April 1.

One day after Gov. Scott Walker called on the state Assembly to pass as written a bipartisan bill to help cancer patients afford chemotherapy pills, Republicans are scaling back the measure to cap co-payments for the drugs at $100 per month.

The bill would still make lifesaving treatment much cheaper for cancer patients currently facing thousands of dollars in chemotherapy costs a year, but the amendment pushed by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) would provide less coverage than a bill passed overwhelmingly on Tuesday by the Senate.

Democrats, fearing that Assembly Republicans would add a poison pill to the bill on it's last day in session, tried unsuccessfully to bring the measure to the floor on Tuesday.  Their motion was defeated on a party line vote.

Democrats vigorously opposed todays last minute Republican amendment to weaken the State Senate approved parity coverage, but there were more than enough Republicans in the Assembly to add the amendment.  As a result, it was impossible for Democrats to vote against the weakened version since this is the last day of the Assembly until after the November elections.   The weakened bill doesn't provide parity with IV chemo, but $100/month is better than ten thousand dollars per month.

Wisconsin will NOT be joining the 26 other states that HAVE passed oral/IV chemo parity legislation, but have improved the lives and finances of those living with cancer.  

Shaming works in an election year.

Originally posted to Puddytat on Thu Mar 20, 2014 at 01:02 PM PDT.

Also republished by Badger State Progressive.

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