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Cancer treatment legislation latest example of House/Senate divide

So many senators and representatives have signed on as co-sponsors of the Cancer Treatment Fairness Act that even without another vote, the bill could pass each chamber. That is what the House and Senate have done, but in very different ways that threaten to make HB 422 one of the casualties of session.

This bill is a big deal for Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Ft. Myers, whose mother died of lung cancer. She fought back tears last month as she explained the bill to her colleagues. It is intended to require insurance companies to provide the same coverage for orally administered cancer medications, mainly pills, as they would for those received intravenously.

On Thursday, the Senate refused to accept changes the House made to the bill earlier in the week. Instead, the Senate asked the House to confer with the laguage they originally sent over. 

But nothing has happened.

The House version grandfathers in existing insurance policies under the current rules, where oral cancer drugs can cost many times more than their intravenous counterparts. It also exempts some small group and out-of-state policies, caps co-payments for oral cancer drugs prescribed to state employees and delays implementation of the new law until January 2015.

The Senate disagrees with all of that. It's version makes the law effective July 1 and requires insurers to implement it by January.

The Senate is waiting to hear back from the House on whether it will agree to roll back some of the changes tacked onto the bill. Meanwhile, the House is waiting to receive the budget from the Senate.