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Michigan lawmaker introduces bill requiring state health plans to cover cutting-edge cancer treatments

A Michigan state senator introduced a bill that would require health insurance companies in the state to cover cutting-edge cancer treatments, even if they are not categorized as a “cancer drug.”

State Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Mich.) announced his new bill in a video on X, formerly Twitter, on Tuesday. The legislation would build on an existing law that already says cancer drugs must be covered by health insurance companies.

Irwin’s new bill now specifies that, if the treatment is prescribed by a physician to treat cancer and was FDA-approved, then insurers must cover the treatment.

The bill further makes explicit that some of the cutting-edge new treatments must be coverage including “genetic therapy and immunotherapy,” which the bill states “includes, but is not limited to CAR-T cell therapy.”

Irwin, in announcing the bill, specifically mentioned a report from ProPublica, which documented a 50-year-old father’s battle with an insurance company at the end of his life.

The company denied him coverage of CAR-T cell therapy, which ProPublica referred to as his “last-chance treatment.” ProPublica reported that executives at the insurance company argued that because CAR-T was a gene therapy and not a drug, it was not subject to the law that mandated it be covered.

“Recently there have been some new cancer drugs hitting the market – biologics, gene therapies – and I was alerted to a terrible case in Michigan where an individual was denied gene therapies by their health insurer, based on the idea that the law didn’t require covering gene therapies, only, quote unquote, cancer drugs,” Irwin said in his video.

“Unfortunately, this resident is now dead,” he continued. “They lost their battle with cancer and now today I’m introducing legislation to close that loophole and to stipulate once and for all that all cancer treatments are required to be covered by health insurance in Michigan.”

The Hill has reached out to the insurance company, Priority Health, for a statement.

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