Wisc. lawmaker blocks cancer treatment bill after insurance lobbyist brother opposes it
Wisconsin state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) — whose brother works as a lobbyist — last week blocked a bill that would have required health plans to cover chemotherapy drugs equally.
Last year, lawmakers in Wisconsin moved to join 29 other states and pass the Cancer Treatment Fairness Act, which would treat chemotherapy pills taken orally the same as intravenous medications.
“Historically, cancer was always treated by intravenous medications, which are administered in the hospital or in the doctor’s office,” oncologist Dr. Parameswaran Hari told WITI. “So newer medications, which we call targeted medications are available only in oral form — so they just got coverage as if they would cover a diabetic medication or hypertension medication under the prescription benefit.”
This left many cancer patients paying tens of thousands of dollars out-of-pocket or unable to afford medication at all.
The bill before Wisconsin’s Senate would “prohibit higher co-payments regardless of the benefit category.”
While Fitzgerald has admitted that the bill has enough support to pass a bipartisan vote, he has refused to let it come before the Senate, saying a majority of Republicans do not support it.
On Wednesday, the Majority Leader called a phantom committee meeting to prevent votes from being taken on the bill, but he insisted that his lobbyist brother, who opposes the measure on behalf of insurance companies, had nothing to do with the move. If the legislation is not brought up for a vote by Tuesday, it will most likely be considered dead for this session.
In a Sunday editorial, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel noted that the connection between Fitzgerald and his brother’s insurance lobbying “looks suspicious and smacks of special interest politics.”
“This is a matter of fairness for people facing grave illness,” the editorial added. “Whatever his motivations, Fitzgerald is singlehandedly blocking a bill that most of his colleagues support and that could help people — probably some of his own constituents. He should allow the bill to come to the floor.”
Watch the video below from WSAW, broadcast March 13, 2014.