Stakeholders across the state, including the American Cancer Society (“ACS”), have mobilized on this critical piece of legislation. The bill would guarantee the availability of biomarker testing and precision medicine for cancer patients in addition to Colorado patients with other life-threatening diseases.
Data from the ACS across the United States shows a deplorable gap in accessibility to precision medicine, especially among the underserved and underinsured. Almost 25% of patients needing these types of cutting-edge tests end up going without – risking their health – and possibly misdiagnosis, mistreatment and worse. Most of these cases involve lack of insurance approval as the primary impediment to getting needed care.
One patient, Rebecca Givens, testified in favor of HB23-1110 and shared her story:
“I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer Thanksgiving of 2019. This diagnosis was terrifying, confusing, time consuming and very expensive. It led to a year of treatment with chemotherapy, surgery and biologic therapy following surgery. And after all of this, I believed I was cancer free…”
“Then I learned at my post-cancer follow-up appointment that the values on the standard tumor marker blood test came back elevated. . . . and I was left with large out-of-pocket costs that I had to cover…”
“My doctor then told me about comprehensive biomarker testing, a highly sensitive and personalized test that could reveal if my cancer had reoccurred or if new cancer cells were present with the added benefit that the test would not show a false positive based on my rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis. I jumped at the chance to get this testing despite its very high cost that was not covered by my group health insurance plan. Being fortunate enough to have the financial resources, I immediately determined to move forward with this critical test.”
“The results of my biomarker testing were negative. I finally knew I was cancer free. Had I received comprehensive biomarker testing earlier in my cancer journey, I would have not had to endure the additional diagnostic tests and procedures, saving me precious time and stress, and reducing the cost of my care overall.”
Rebecca’s story, despite the anguish, ended well. But how many Colorado patients may not be as fortunate to afford extra care to get to the right diagnosis? One more is too many.
By lowering misdiagnosis and improving care, precision medicine could dramatically lower the cost of care not only in Colorado but across the United States. For colorectal cancer alone, A 2012 study found that it is possible to increase expected overall survival while saving approximately $7,500 per patient when compared to using non-biomarker-directed treatment25. Another research project estimated that using specific biomarker testing could save more than $600 million by ensuring that only those metastatic colorectal cancer patients likely to benefit from a specific therapy would receive it.
In spite of the overwhelming public good and support of leading health and patient advocacy groups, passage of HB23-1110 is not assured. The bill’s next stop will likely be the House Appropriations Committee.
CHAIN is urging every Coloradan to contact their state lawmakers and encourage them to support physical and financial wellbeing in our state by voting YES on HB23-1110.