AUGUSTA – Today, LD 1577 was introduced in the Maine Legislature and sent for reference to the Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee. This bill will allow more Mainers to receive biomarker testing – a routine step in accessing personalized medicine treatments that has become an increasingly important part of cancer care in recent years due to its significant impact in improving survivorship and quality of life.
Progress in the fight against cancer has been in part due to advances in biomarker testing which allows physicians to match patients with the most effective treatment for their specific cancer. Unfortunately, private insurers and Medicaid typically only cover some biomarker testing for some patients, meaning the most appropriate test for a patient may not be covered. As a result, too many Mainers can’t access such testing, which can contribute to disparities in access to the most appropriate and effective treatments. LD 1577 would address this by requiring insurers to cover biomarker testing when supported by scientific and medical evidence and recommended as part of a patient’s treatment plan.
“Today’s legislation holds great promise in ensuring the delivery of the right treatment at the right time,” said Hilary Schneider, Maine director of government relations for ACS CAN. “By aligning coverage of biomarker testing with the latest science, we can help achieve better health outcomes, improved quality of life and potentially reduced costs by allowing some Mainers to bypass costly and ineffective treatments, and instead quickly identify which therapies will be most effective for their individual disease.”
Biomarker testing plays a vital role in providing timely access to innovative and appropriate therapies, leading to higher chances of survivorship against cancer. For example, patients with certain lung cancer types who received biomarker testing and targeted therapy had a 31% reduction in mortality.
"This bill would be an important step towards ensuring equitable, empowering, high quality 21st-century medical care in Maine. By matching people to their idealized treatments and screenings, they can enjoy better clinical outcomes and avoid needless side effects. It also helps the system waste less, which can reduce costs. Biomarkers provide greater clarity, so patients and their doctors and other providers can make individualized choices together," said bill sponsor Rep. Sam Zager (D- Portland), who is also a physician.
Biomarker testing is increasingly important for the treatment of other diseases as well including arthritis, other autoimmune conditions, and rare diseases. Biomarker testing research is happening in many other areas including cardiology, infectious disease, and neurological conditions. These current and future applications are important to cancer patients, too, as patients and survivors have very high rates of comorbidities due to shared risk factors and side effects of cancer treatment.
ACS CAN thanks sponsor Rep. Zager, along with cosponsors Assistant House Minority Leader Amy Arata (R-New Gloucester), Senators Rick Bennett (R-Oxford), Donna Bailey (D-York), Cameron Reny (D-Lincoln, and Representatives Anne Perry (D-Calais), Scott Cyrway (R-Albion), Kathy Javner (R-Chester), and Gregory Swallow (R-Houlton) for championing this important next step in ensuring cancer patients have access to precision medicine and looks forward to working with the rest of the legislature to pass this critical legislation.
About ACS CAN
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) makes cancer a top priority for policymakers at every level of government. ACS CAN empowers volunteers across the country to make their voices heard to influence evidence-based public policy change that improves the lives of people with cancer and their families. We believe everyone should have a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer. Since 2001, as the American Cancer Society’s nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, ACS CAN has successfully advocated for billions of dollars in cancer research funding, expanded access to quality affordable health care, and advanced proven tobacco control measures. We’re more determined than ever to stand together with our volunteers to end cancer as we know it, for everyone. Join the fight by visiting www.fightcancer.org.