TRENTON – By a significant majority, New Jerseyans would like to see protections put in place that control the practice of step therapy by health insurance companies according to a poll released today by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN). The poll results were released as the New Jersey state legislature is considering step therapy reform legislation during the lame duck session. According to the poll, two of three New Jerseyans or 64% support putting controls on step therapy. Only 25% oppose these controls. Legislation that would govern step therapy passed the Assembly in March and has been awaiting consideration in the Senate for several months now.
Step therapy policies, also known as fail first, are used by health insurers to force patients to try medications that insurance companies choose, requiring the patient to “fail first” before gaining access to the medicine originally prescribed by their health care provider. This insurance practice undermines a doctor’s ability to appropriately treat patients with serious diseases and can greatly impede patient recovery.
The poll, conducted in October by TargetSmart, a leading national polling firm with expertise in politics, non-profits, labor organizations and enterprise solutions, also showed that while 40 percent strongly support the legislation, only 14 percent strongly oppose the proposed reforms. The poll also showed that support for governing step therapy crosses demographic and political boundaries. A majority of both Murphy and Ciattarelli supporters indicate support for the legislation. There is majority support for the policy across the state, with nearly two-thirds of those in population dense Northern New Jersey and Central New Jersey supportive and nearly 6-in-10 of those in South Jersey reporting they support step therapy reform as well.
“Patients need the right medicine at the right time and these poll results show that New Jerseyans want common sense safeguards put in place to protect against step therapy policies that may lead to delays in care, said Michael Davoli, ACS CAN New Jersey Government Relations Director. “Without safeguards in place like those included in the legislation under consideration by the legislature, step therapy truly gambles with the health of individuals with cancer and other serious illnesses..”
Over 35 patient and provider groups in New Jersey support the legislation which was already passed in the general assembly by an overwhelming majority. Twenty Senators are cosponsoring the bipartisan Senate bill championed by Senate Health Committee Chairperson Joseph Vitale. After months of discussion between lawmakers, advocates and payers in New Jersey, supporters of the reform bill are optimistic that the Senate will come to an agreement on the legislation this month because it balances patients' needs with efforts to contain costs. Twenty-nine states already regulate step therapy practices.
“As a medical provider, I have seen firsthand the effects of step therapy,” said Assemblyman Herb Conaway, M.D. (D7) who championed the step therapy reform bill in the Assembly. “There is generally little oversight over how insurance companies choose their alternatives, and the process of reaching the most effective treatment may take months. During this time, many patients may show limited to no improvement and in severe cases their health may deteriorate further while receiving treatment that is not effective for their condition. We must ensure that healthcare providers are able to make treatment decisions that are in the best interest of their patients.”
“Step therapy is a harmful insurance practice that blocks access to the medicines and treatments patients need at the time they need it,” said Liz Parlett Butcher of Egg Harbon New Jersey. “This dangerous practice nearly killed my then-nine year old son when he was forced to stop the medicine that was working for him, and switch to a new insurer-preferred drug. Not only is this practice cruel and inhumane, but at the end of the day it costs our healthcare system more by forcing patients to fail on medicine their doctors already know won’t work. Who is calling the shots here? Not the right folks this my son will tell you.”
“When patients are required to try and fail alternatives to the medication their provider selected for treating their Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, optimal treatment can be delayed for weeks or months, which can result in worsened health outcomes,” said Marty Siederer, Executive Director, Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, New Jersey Chapter. “The step therapy reforms being considered would assure that New Jerseyans have access to a transparent and expedient appeals process to help them get access to the medication they need--when they need it. We urge the State Senate to act now to advance this legislation in the interest of all patients with chronic illnesses.”
“Step therapy policies harm patients by creating significant barriers to care,” said Larry Downs, President and CEO, Medical Society of New Jersey. “Physicians leverage their years of training and experience each and every time they interact with a patient and the clinical choices patients and their physicians make should not be delayed or stymied in any way. We ask the Senate to follow the action of their Assembly counterparts and pass S-3051, which would give patients relief from these fail first policies”.
"Step Therapy is a detrimental barrier that disrupts the vital conversation between MS patients and their neurologists in choosing the appropriate therapy for their specific disease course,” said Gina Ross Murdoch, President and CEO of the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America. “Within MS, step therapy protocols can have harmful and lasting effects on a patient's health and quality of daily living as well as increase the risk of hospitalization and the impact of disease progression. We're proud that our home state of New Jersey has shown overwhelming support for reforming this practice, and we urge the State Senate to pass S3051 without delay,"