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
Legislation Aimed at Improving Health Outcomes for New Yorkers Heads to the Governor’s Desk
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network thanks lawmakers for passing legislation that expands access to precision medicine
ALBANY, NY – JUNE 9, 2023 – Late last night, the New York State Assembly passed Assembly Bill 1673a to increase access to biomarker testing, which can help determine the best treatment plan for each patient. The bill will now go to Governor Hochul’s desk, providing her the opportunity to ensure coverage of this essential testing for more New Yorkers. The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) is sponsoring this significant policy change to ensure more cancer patients can get the testing needed to access precision medicine.
Biomarker testing has become a game-changing part of cancer care given its role in opening the door to targeted treatments that can lead to improved survivorship and quality of life. Despite the proven benefits, some insurers are failing to keep pace with innovations and advancements in biomarker testing. This results in some patients being forced to decide whether to pay out-of-pocket or go without the testing that may connect them with lifesaving treatment or help them avoid unnecessary or ineffective treatments. Many people of color, individuals with lower incomes and rural communities are being left behind from advances in precision treatments. A1673a/S1196a can help address these gaps in access to biomarker testing.
Hazel N. Dukes, President of the NAACP New York State Conference, said, “While African Americans have a higher cancer burden and face greater obstacles to cancer prevention, detection, treatment and survival, improving access to biomarker testing can extend lives and help advance health equity in precision medicine. Despite evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of biomarker testing and targeted therapy, currently not all individuals benefit equitably from these advances. This important legislation will ensure that more patients who can benefit, are able to get the testing they need. I urge Governor Hochul to support the proposal.”
“Biomarkers are an excellent tool for cancer care, amongst other illnesses,” said prime sponsor Senator Roxanne Persaud. “Biomarkers are essential when determining the best possible treatment for many patients. This testing provides a wealth of information to medical providers that can be used to personalize treatment and often improve patients' quality of life. This legislation is a step in saving the lives of New Yorkers.”
Assemblymember Pamela Hunter, who championed the bill in the Assembly, continued, "Biomarker testing is increasingly important for effective cancer care. In fact, over half of all new oncology drugs introduced in the past five years require or recommend biomarker testing before use. Expanding coverage of biomarker testing to New Yorkers covered by state-regulated insurance plans, including Medicaid, will ensure that these new treatments are accessible for more New Yorkers, potentially reducing health disparities and improving outcomes for patients.”
Medical providers and patient advocates from across the state are affirming their support for the legislation. “We are on the verge of making a difference for New Yorkers facing cancer and other serious conditions,” said Mary Carlin, cancer survivor and ACS CAN volunteer from Greater Albany. “I am not only a cancer survivor but a cancer mom; at just 4 years old, my daughter Charlotte was diagnosed with a brain tumor. From our shared experience, Charlotte and I understand the importance of getting the right treatment at the right time. We urge Governor Hochul to prioritize cancer care and sign A1673a/S1196a into law.”
“Biomarker testing has become pivotal in the treatment of many cancers,” said Marc Ladanyi, MD, Chief of the Molecular Diagnostics Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “The knowledge gained from utilizing these state-of-the-art tests in routine patient care enables oncologists to identify the best possible treatments. By expanding access to these technologies, we can improve the lives of patients.”
"As science advances, it's critically important that health policy and access advance too. Biomarker testing can make the difference between a treatable cancer using targeted therapy and an untreatable one, with benefits for individual patients and the whole health system. We must put what we know about cancer to work for cancer patients. The Governor now has the opportunity to do so,” said Mary Reid, PhD, MSPH, Chief of Cancer Screening, Survivorship and Mentorship at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.
The proposed legislation would not just benefit cancer patients; biomarker testing is increasingly important in the treatment of other diseases, including arthritis, other autoimmune conditions and rare diseases. Tiffany Westrich-Robertson, CEO of the AiArthritis, the International Foundation for Autoimmune & Autoinflammatory Arthritis, said, “There have been biomarkers used for years in autoimmune and autoinflammatory arthritis diseases to streamline diagnosis and to predict more aggressive disease. However, current breakthroughs include blood tests that detect if patients will or will not respond to specific biologic treatments. Since the current treatment protocol is a trial-and-error approach, most patients experience lifelong illness with a high prevalence of comorbidities. Given the average age of onset is 20-40 in adults and any age in children, access to innovative breakthroughs is vital to improving lives and saving the healthcare system millions of dollars. We are glad that the state Assembly agreed.”
Michael Davoli, Senior Government Relations Director for ACS CAN in New York, concluded, “ACS CAN thanks Senator Persuad and Assemblymember Hunter for their leadership on this biomarker testing legislation and asks Gov. Hochul to sign this bill into law as soon as possible, so it can bring the hope and promise of precision medicine to more New Yorkers. It’s time for us to make the future of modern medicine accessible to more New Yorkers.”
If Governor Hochul supports the legislation and expands access to biomarker testing, New York would become the 13th state to enact comprehensive biomarker testing legislation. 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) advocates for evidence-based public policies to reduce the cancer burden for everyone. As the American Cancer Society’s nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, ACS CAN is making cancer a top priority for public officials and candidates at the federal, state, and local levels. By engaging advocates across the country to make their voices heard, ACS CAN influences legislative and regulatory solutions that will end cancer as we know it.