UPDATE: Oklahoma lawmakers approve bill protects proton therapy patients
News Channel 4 Oklahoma
UPDATE: The Oklahoma House of Representatives unanimously approved legislation to make sure cancer patients’ proton therapy treatments are covered by insurance.
Now, House Bill 1515 proceeds to the Senate.
Several Oklahoma lawmakers are pushing for a bill that would protect cancer patients from being denied insurance coverage for treatments recommended by their doctors, specifically proton therapy.
Some doctors are fighting for this precise radiation treatment, claiming it has less side effects and risks for patients than traditional radiation.
“I’m trying to protect what’s left of my brain,” said Sally Story.
Sally Story is fighting a mass in her brain.
“Doctors told us that the current mass that I have is actually a post radiation tumor from 20 years ago when I went through this,” said Story.
After getting the opinions of several doctors, she chose proton therapy, which uses a high energy beam of protons to deliver a dose of radiation therapy to a tumor.
“Proton therapy, since it stops, can go and treat the tumor without hitting all the normal tissue around it, thus reducing the side effects,” said Les Yonemoto, M.D., M.B.A., radiation oncologist with ProCure.
In our state, some insurance companies treat proton therapy differently than traditional radiation therapy, denying coverage for the treatment.
However, some lawmakers are pushing for that to change.
“To make sure that we get the word to the insurance companies that we expect you do to the best for your patients and for your customers,” said State Rep. Leslie Osborn.
Oklahoma Rep. Marian Cooksey, the author of the bill, claims this is not a mandate, but does expect backlash from insurance companies.
“I hope people realize what we have in our state and the treatment that they can get and that this will be something that they will do,” said Cooksey.
It’s a way for patients like Jeff Murray, who battled prostate cancer, to have a choice.
“I just finished my four-year checkup last week and I can’t tell you how pleased I am with all that the proton therapy has accomplished,” said Murray.
This measure will go to a committee for a possible hearing in the House in early February.