Sacramento, Calif. – The California Legislature passed a bill last night that would ensure comprehensive biomarker testing is covered by more health insurance plans, including Medi-Cal, when supported by medical and scientific evidence. Senate Bill 912 – which was introduced by Senator Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara) – has received unanimous, bipartisan support throughout the legislative process.
Biomarker testing is 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 some cancer patients. Specific biomarkers, which can be measured in blood, tissue or other biospecimens, allow doctors to determine if a patient will benefit from certain precision medicine therapies.
“Over half of oncology drugs launched in the past five years require or recommend biomarker testing prior to use. Despite this, biomarker testing is still not available to all the patients who might benefit from it,” said Pete Cala, cancer survivor and Davis resident. Cala was diagnosed with stage four esophageal cancer and given five months to live. More than seven years later, he credits biomarker testing and precision medicine for helping extend and improve his life.
“We urge Governor Newsom to sign this critical piece of legislation that will help dismantle cost barriers and bring the promise of precision medicine to more patients, regardless of their income, race or zip code,” stated Cala.
“Sixty-six percent of oncology providers reported that insurance coverage is a significant or moderate barrier to appropriate biomarker testing for their patients. If signed, this bipartisan bill will address this injustice,” said Autumn J. Ogden-Smith, California Legislative Director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN).
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.
“The advances in cancer treatment that have come from being able to tailor approaches to a person’s individual condition are critical for winning the fight against cancer and helping reduce health disparities,” said Carrie L. Byington, M.D., executive vice president of University of California Health. “California has the opportunity to be among the leaders in the nation with this legislation.”
ACS CAN and the University of California (UC) teamed up to sponsor SB 912 to help ensure more patients have access to precision medicine. The UC system is a leader in cancer care through the UC Cancer Consortium which comprises five of the nation's 71 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers.
Approximately 189,220 Californians will be diagnosed with cancer this year. For more information on how ACS CAN is advocating for cancer patients and survivors on the local, state and federal levels or to learn more about how to get involved with our advocacy efforts visit FightCancer.org/CA.
Video with cancer survivor Pete Cala’s biomarker story here.