SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today signed Senate Bill 2339, requiring health plans to continue coverage for cancer patients electing to participate in clinical trials. Participation in clinical trials give cancer patients access to cutting edge treatments – often their best chance for survival. But, many cancer patients fear they will lose their health insurance if they participate in clinical trials. The new law protects them from this kind of discrimination.
“The standard treatments of today were the clinical trials yesterday. Providing cancer patients with access to the full range of potentially lifesaving treatments will help reduce suffering, prolong life, and enhance scientific advancements,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. John J. Cullerton (D-Chicago), and Rep. Thomas Holbrook (D-Belleville), amends the Illinois Insurance Code, the Voluntary Health Services Plan, and the Illinois Public Aid Code and creates the Illinois Cancer Patient Protection Act.
"With this legislation we are giving individuals, who are on the brink of hopelessness, peace of mind knowing their treatment will be covered by their health insurance," said Sen. Cullerton. "Cancer patients, whose only hope may be an experimental drug, should only have to worry
about battling their disease and not their insurance company in order to stay alive."
Clinical trials are research studies conducted by doctors on patients to explore new methods to treat cancer safely and effectively when traditional protocols have proven unsuccessful. Previously, cancer patients in Illinois who were insured were denied coverage for routine patient care costs for participation in a clinical trial.
An estimated one in two Americans will develop cancer during their lifetime and nearly 60,000 Illinoisans are expected to be diagnosed with cancer this year.
“When patients and their families are faced with a catastrophic illness such as late-stage cancer, they need options, not obstacles. This law helps alleviate the patient’s fear of jeopardizing insurance eligibility and puts focus on a cure,” said Fernando E. Grillo, Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) Secretary.
The IDFPR, Division of Insurance, is responsible for regulating the insurance industry.
The American Cancer Society, which spearheaded this legislation, estimates less than five percent of all cancer patients, sought clinical trials for fear of losing insurance coverage.
Illinois becomes the ninth state to offer such protection to cancer patients. The law is effective immediately.