U.S Senator Candidate Leah Vukmir’s vote against a 2014 bill regarding oral chemotherapy in the state Senate was brought up during the U.S. Senate Candidate Forum between U.S Senator Tammy Baldwin Saturday; an issue Baldwin has repeatedly used as a line of attack against Vukmir. But a recent study from the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and Harvard Medical School appears to provide support for Vukmir’s no vote; it indicates that for cancer patients who had the highest medication costs for oral chemotherapy, costs actually increased when similar laws were passed elsewhere.
Vukmir’s vote against the 2014 bill has been a constant target of the Baldwin campaign, which included the Baldwin campaign running an ad solely on the issue. The bill that was passed in 2014 requires health insurance companies to offer the same coverage for both oral and intravenous chemotherapy.
During the debate on Saturday Baldwin brought up Vukmir’s no vote: “No wonder she’s worried about private insurance, at every vote on health issues she seems to have sided more with the private insurers than she has with patients.” Vukmir responded by saying that Baldwin, “wishes to cherry pick various votes that I’ve taken,” and that, “there are a lot of unintended consequences that happen from pieces of legislation and I keep that in mind when I look at things.”
A day before the debate a press release from the Vukmir campaign highlighted a study that looked at the results of similar cancer drug parity laws. The press release claimed that “for cancer patients who had the highest medication costs for oral chemotherapy, costs increased an additional $150 per month after state laws like the one in Wisconsin were passed, the researchers say.” The study reported that:
“In an analysis of the impact of parity laws published in JAMA Oncology, UNC Lineberger researchers and collaborators from Harvard Medical School report modest improvements in costs for many patients. However, patients who were already paying the most for their medications, saw their monthly costs go up.”
“Dusetzina and her colleagues found that patients paying the most for their cancer pill prescriptions experienced increases in their monthly out-of-pocket costs. For those whose costs were more expensive than 95 percent of other patients, their out-of-pocket costs increased an estimated $143.25 per month. Those paying more than 90 percent of what other patients paid saw their costs increase by $37.19 per month.”
“Per usual, Tammy Baldwin supports policies that raise health care costs for Wisconsin’s neediest patients, just like she will with her government-run health care plan that eliminates Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare and employee health insurance,” said campaign manager Jess Ward in the press release.