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State Senator Andrew Rice (D-OKC) today introduced “Steffanie’s Law,” a bill to require health insurance providers in the State of Oklahoma to cover routine care costs for patients participating in a clinical trial.
Rice said “Steffanie’s Law,” or Senate Bill 1521, would relieve Oklahoma families of the risk of losing their health insurance coverage by participating in clinical trials, which are in some cases the best available treatment for their illness. Currently, most insurance companies deny coverage of routine health care costs once a patient joins a clinical trial.
“Families in Oklahoma should not have to decide between potential life-saving treatments and personal financial ruin,” Rice said. “There is little evidence that routine health care costs for clinical trial patients are any higher than costs for patients who are not enrolled in trials.”
A growing number of states have passed legislation or instituted special agreements requiring health plans to pay the cost of routine medical care that patients receive as a participant in a clinical trial. Routine patient care costs are the usual costs of medical care, such as doctor visits, hospital stays, clinical laboratory tests, x-rays, etc., that you would receive whether or not you were participating in a clinical trial.
“Oklahoma is blessed with state-of-the-art health care facilities where new clinical trials, most often paid for by sponsoring groups such as the National Cancer Institute or a pharmaceutical company, are creating hope for patients with life-threatening diseases,” Rice said. “It’s not right that the only obstacle to possible life-saving treatment is an insurance company which has ruled that participating in clinical trials disqualifies you from their health care coverage.”
Research has shown that lack of such coverage is a significant barrier to many patients who might otherwise enroll in a trial. Lack of coverage also makes it harder for researchers to successfully conduct trials that could improve prevention and treatment options, Rice said.
One area teenager whose parents decided to pursue clinical trials at any cost is Steffanie Collings, 18, from Noble. She was diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of 14. Her insurance carrier has refused coverage since she underwent clinical trials to treat her brain tumor.
Monty Collings, Steffanie’s father, said her routine patient care costs have exceeded $500,000. He said her insurance carrier has denied more than $400,000 in claims. He said his family is facing mounting medical bills and possible bankruptcy due the insurance company’s refusal to cover Steffanie’s medical care.
“Senator Rice’s proposal will help us and others,” Collings said. “I have watched my daughter over the past four and one half years struggle with her cancer and even though I am facing financial peril, I would make the same decision again when doctors tell me that clinical trials could be her only chance for a normal life.”
Nancy Thomason, Founder and President of Oklahoma Brain Tumor Foundation, said the decision of pursuing clinical trial treatment should be made by the physician, the patient and family members, not insurance companies. She said even if you have health insurance, your coverage may not include some or all of the patient care costs associated with a clinical trial because some health plans define clinical trials as "experimental" or "investigational" procedures.
“Oklahomans deserve the right to the latest cutting edge research which can improve our quality of life and help extend our life or the life of our loved one,” Thomason said.
Rice said “Steffanie’s Law” will increase health care options. While no federal laws have yet been passed, 14 states have laws mandating insurance providers cover certain clinical trial costs.