ANNAPOLIS, MD – APRIL 17, 2023 – Last week, HB 1217 / SB 805 landed on Governor Wes Moore’s desk following its near-unanimous passage in the Senate and House of Delegates and representing a victory for cancer patients across Maryland. The legislation aims to ensure biomarker testing is covered by all state-regulated health plans, including Medicaid, when it is supported by medical and scientific evidence. With the Governor’s signature, more Marylanders will benefit from biomarker testing, a critical step in accessing precision medicine services.
Dubbed ‘the right treatment at the right time,’ precision medicine has played a critical role in improving cancer outcomes. For Towson resident Hilary Akinbiyi, biomarker testing proved invaluable in her battle with breast cancer. “I was diagnosed with cancer at 30 years old. At the time of my diagnosis, I didn’t think anything would ease the anxiety that I felt about treatment and survivorship; however, when my biomarker testing results indicated that I would not have to receive chemotherapy, I felt hopeful for the first time—hopeful that I could maintain my quality of life and still beat my disease. Every cancer patient should have access to the hope that biomarker testing provides,” said Hilary.
Despite its benefits, access to biomarker testing has not kept pace with the rate of innovation—a result of several factors, including uneven coverage by private health insurance and Medicaid programs for appropriate testing. The legislation was a bipartisan effort and will bring Maryland in line with the six other states that have expanded access to biomarker testing.
Delegate Karen Toles, who sponsored the bill alongside her Senate counterpart Senator Arthur Ellis, said, “Biomarker testing and precision medicine are helping extend lives and improve quality of life by tailoring care and treatment to a person’s individual condition. We are thrilled at the prospect of securing such progress for Marylanders.” Sen. Ellis continued, “This legislation will help dismantle cost barriers and bring the promise of precision medicine to cancer patients and survivors across Maryland, no matter their income, race or where they live.”
“Hearing the three simple words ‘you have cancer’ can turn anyone’s world upside down. Progress in improving cancer outcomes increasingly involves the use of precision medicine which allows more cancer diagnoses to be met with hope. Biomarker testing is an important step to accessing precision medicine which can improve survival outcomes and quality of life whereby patients’ worlds can remain right-side up,” said Delegate Jheanelle Wilkins—without whose leadership as the Chair of the Legislative Black Caucus this success wouldn’t be possible.
Lance Kilpatrick, ACS CAN’s Government Relations Director in Maryland, said, “Over 35,000 Marylanders will be diagnosed with cancer this year. By acting to improve cancer patients’ access to biomarker testing, Maryland will help ensure the most appropriate treatment, a better quality of life and the best chance of survival for more cancer patients across the state. ACS CAN thanks the patient advocates, providers, bill sponsors and legislative champions who made this victory possible.”
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) 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.