Today, Governor Doug Ducey signed legislation that will ensure biomarker testing is covered by more insurance plans, including Medicaid, when patients need it. The new law will enable more Arizonans to benefit from biomarker testing, a critical step in accessing precision medicine treatments that can lead to fewer side effects, improved survival, better quality of life and potentially lower costs for cancer patients.
Before signing the bill at the Dignity Health Cancer Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, the governor said Arizona now joins only a handful of other states in requiring health insurance plans to cover biomarker testing when there’s a clinical need. “These types of tests have become a crucial part of cancer and other disease therapies and should be available to everyone who wants one,” said Governor Ducey. “Biomarker tests save lives. They help doctors determine the best course of treatment, prevent unnecessary treatments and will help us cure diseases like cancer in the future. No one should be denied this information.”
Dubbed ‘the right treatment, to the right patient, at the right time,’ precision medicine has played a critical role in improving cancer outcomes. For example, patients with certain lung cancer types who received biomarker testing and targeted therapy had a 34% reduction in mortality. But to determine if a patient will benefit from certain targeted therapies, doctors must test for specific biomarkers, such as gene mutations, which can be measured in blood, tissue or other biospecimen.
“Biomarker testing and precision medicine are helping extend and save lives by tailoring care and treatment to a person’s individual disease,” said Brian Hummell, government relations director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) in Arizona. “Close to 60 percent of the oncology drugs launched in the past five years require or recommend biomarker testing prior to use. And the percentage of cancer clinical trials that involve biomarkers has grown significantly.”
Despite its benefits and increasingly important role in cancer care, access to biomarker testing has not kept pace with the rate of innovation and advancements in treatment. One significant barrier for patients is lack of coverage by private health insurance and Medicaid programs for appropriate testing.
Currently, communities that have been under-resourced, including communities of color, individuals with limited income, rural residents and patients receiving care in non-academic medical centers are less likely to receive recommended biomarker testing.
“We thank Rep. Regina Cobb for championing this bill and appreciate the overwhelming support of the Arizona Legislature for taking this critical step to ensure more patients can benefit from the latest advances in treatment. Governor Ducey’s action today will help dismantle cost barriers and bring the promise of precision medicine to all Arizonans regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, income or zip code,” said Hummell.
ACS CAN led a coalition of more than 20 patient advocacy groups to support the bill through the legislative process. The law is scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023.
For more information on precision medicine, cancer biomarkers, current barriers to biomarker testing and ACS CAN’s policy recommendations, visit: www.fightcancer.org/biomarkers.