LAKE SUCCESS, NY – November 27, 2023 – Local health care providers, cancer survivors, and patient advocates gathered today at the Northwell Health Cancer Institute to call on Governor Kathy Hochul to prioritize health equity by improving access to biomarker testing and signing Se
Governor Walz Signs Legislation to Increase Access to Innovative Testing that Can Match Patients with Most Effective Treatments
Cancer Advocates Applaud Action to Ensure More Patients Have Access to Testing That Can Identify the Most Effective Treatments, Leading to Improved Survival and Better Quality of Life
SAINT PAUL, Minn. – Today, Governor Tim Walz 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 Minnesotans 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.
Dubbed ‘the right treatment, 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 31% 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 biospecimens like tissue.
“I was diagnosed with metastatic stage IV lung cancer in 2021. Because of biomarker testing and the targeted treatment that it led to, I am currently cancer free. Every patient, every oncologist and every affected family deserves access to this life-enhancing tool,” said Teri Fischer, a volunteer with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) from Minneapolis.
“Biomarker testing and precision medicine are helping extend and save lives by tailoring care and treatment to a person’s individual disease,” said Emily Myatt, Minnesota government relations director for ACS CAN. “Close to 60% 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 the 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 Senator Judy Seeberger and Representative Liz Reyer for championing this bill and appreciate the overwhelming support of the Minnesota Legislature for taking this critical step to ensure more patients can benefit from the latest advances in treatment. Governor Walz’s action today will help bring the promise of precision medicine to more Minnesotans regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, income or zip code,” said Myatt.
ACS CAN led a coalition of more than thirty groups to support the bill through the legislative process. The law is scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2025.
For more information on precision medicine, cancer biomarkers, current barriers to biomarker testing and ACS CAN’s policy recommendations, visit: www.fightcancer.org/biomarkers.
About ACS CAN
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) is making cancer a top priority for public officials and candidates at the federal, state and local levels. ACS CAN empowers advocates across the country to make their voices heard and influence evidence-based public policy change as well as legislative and regulatory solutions that will reduce the cancer burden. As the American Cancer Society’s nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, ACS CAN is critical to the fight for a world without cancer. For more information, visit www.fightcancer.org.