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Governor Visits Bozeman Deaconess Cancer Center for Signing Ceremony

April 26, 2013

Governor Steve Bullock visited the Bozeman Deaconess Cancer Center on Monday, April 29 for a signing ceremony to celebrate the passage of Senate Bill 55, an act clarifying that issuers of health insurance coverage may not deny routine patient costs for individuals in an approved clinical trial. This bill was sponsored by Senator Christine Kaufmann of Helena.

In March, the Montana State Legislature approved SB55, which requires insurance coverage for patients participating in clinical trials. This new law should increase access for Montana cancer patients to cutting-edge treatment without concern for whether their insurance will cover the cost of their basic care. Senator Kaufmann and a coalition led by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network started working to remedy this problem facing cancer patients nearly eight years ago.

Another invaluable partner in this campaign has been Bozeman Deaconess Cancer Center oncologist Jack Hensold, MD. During this time he has tirelessly worked to ensure that the cost of standard care for a cancer patient in a clinical trial would be covered by their insurer. Costs for experimental drugs being tested in trials are covered by trial sponsors. Insurers had mistakenly thought they were being asked to pay for these new treatments.

Three additional Montana lawmakers and cosponsors of the bill worked to ensure its passage. Rep. Kathleen Williams of Bozeman sponsored a bill enacting a working group to examine the issue, which ultimately led to the 2013 legislation. Sen. Art Wittich of Bozeman and Rep. Liz Bangerter of Helena were instrumental in educating leadership and their seatmates about the importance of the bill.

However, this bill would not have passed without the testimony of cancer patients. A number of patients from Bozeman Deaconess Cancer Center testified before the Legislature and each told powerful stories about the importance of access to cancer clinical trials. Governor Bullock makes the trek to Bozeman to thank Dr. Hensold, the lawmakers and especially the patients for their efforts to make this law a reality.
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