WASHINGTON, D.C. Legislation helping patients with chronic, disabling and life-threatening conditions has been reintroduced by Rep. David B. McKinley, R-W.Va.
The Patient Access to Treatments Act, H.R. 460, co-sponsored with Rep. Lois Capps, D-Calif., and 15 other members of the House will allow millions of Americans to have access to critical treatments that can save their lives or improve their quality of life, McKinley said.
"Over the past two years, hearing the stories of patients struggling to pay for medications that would dramatically improve their lives has been heartbreaking," McKinley said. "After talking with a number of people in these situations, it was clear action was needed."
Patients with conditions ranging from rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis to lupus and some forms of cancer can benefit from specialty and biologic drugs, but the cost of these drugs prevents access for many Americans, he said.
"Even the president's health care plan doesn't cover the cost of these expensive drugs," McKinley said.
The law allows prescription drug co-pays to spiral up to $6,000 out of pocket for an individual and $12,000 for a family, he said.
"Medicine is not just for the privileged," McKinley said. "No one should have to choose between paying their bills and improving their quality of life. "
Specialty drugs treat patients with chronic and sometimes life-threatening illnesses, ranging from arthritis to cancer, Capps said. Many patients can't afford the high cost-sharing requirements imposed on many specialty drugs, and are forced to not take their medication as prescribed or not take it at all, she said.
"This leads to increased complications and costs down the road, for the individual, their family, and the entire health care system," she said.
Patients who require specialty drugs pay a percentage of the treatments rather than a "fixed rate," as is common with most medicine. The legislation would end the practice of discrimination against specialty drugs by requiring insurers to impose the same co-payment they charge for other medications, McKinley said.
The legislation is supported by Dr. Audrey Uknis, president of the American College of Rheumatology, and Nancy Davenport-Ennis, chief executive officer and president of the National Patient Advocate Foundation.
"Millions of Americans suffer from chronic and disabling diseases and are unable to afford critical treatments to relieve their pain and prolong their lives," McKinley said. "Congress can and should help them."