Bill Increasing Access to Biomarker Testing for Certain Coloradans Becomes Law

Governor Jared Polis Helps Unlock Key to Precision Medicine During Bill Signing Ceremony

June 3, 2024

Volunteers attend bill signing ceremonyGovernor Jared Polis signed SB24-124 into law during a ceremony at the Governor’s Mansion on Monday afternoon, ensuring more Colorado patients with private insurance have coverage for biomarker testing. The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) recognizes the signing of the bill as a positive first step to increasing access to biomarker testing to connect patients with the right treatment at the right time. During Monday’s ceremony, Governor Polis was surrounded by advocates from ACS CAN including cancer survivors, as well as bill sponsors Sen. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, Rep. Anthony Hartsook, and Rep. Monica Duran. 

Biomarker testing is critical to unlocking precision medicine, including targeted therapies, which can improve survivorship and quality of life for cancer patients and others with serious illnesses. In addition, biomarker testing could help patients save invaluable time, physical and emotional strain, and money by avoiding treatments that are likely to be ineffective or unnecessary.  

Additionally, over 60% of oncology drugs launched in the past five years require or recommend biomarker testing before use. However, insurance coverage for biomarker testing is failing to keep pace with innovations and advancements in treatment.  

Peggy Dennis, ACS CAN Colorado volunteer and lung cancer survivor attended Monday’s bill signing ceremony. She helped garner support for the bill by testifying before state lawmakers in May. Dennis was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer back in 2016, despite having never used tobacco. At the time, her team of doctors recognized the urgency to access targeted treatment and urged her to undergo biomarker testing. She was forced to secure financial assistance and successfully underwent testing after her insurance company denied coverage for testing.

“Biomarker testing was a gamechanger in my cancer care,” said Dennis. “Knowing my results informed my team of doctors to the best treatments options possible. Even more Coloradans should benefit from the same testing and care I had access to. Today’s action taken by Governor Polis is a great first step to connecting patients with precision medicine, but we must continue working to ensure even more Coloradans have access to testing when they need it.”

Under SB24-124, over one million Coloradans or roughly 33% of those with private health insurance coverage will now benefit from improved coverage for biomarker testing. Unfortunately, the law does not include coverage for Medicaid enrollees which accounts for more than 1.6 million Coloradans, according to the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing. 

“While today is a win for Coloradans who are battling cancer and other diseases, it’s important we highlight the need for Medicaid enrollees to have access to coverage for biomarker testing,” said R.J. Ours, Colorado ACS CAN Government Relations Director. “I’m pleased Governor Polis and state legislators have taken notice of the importance of such testing, but more work needs to be done. I look forward to working with our legislative partners in 2025 to ensure similar biomarker testing is covered for Medicaid enrollees.” 

According to a survey conducted by ACS CAN, over three-quarters of those who have had biomarker testing say it gave their providers valuable information that improved their ability to treat the patient’s cancer. 53% say they are more likely to recover because of the biomarker testing. Half say they were able to avoid unnecessary treatments or procedures because they had biomarker testing. 

With cancer cases projected to rise in Colorado in 2024, the signing of this bill into law is a crucial first step in expanding access to biomarker testing. Colorado is now the 18th state across the country to enact similar legislation to expand access to biomarker testing. 

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