, ,

Assembly Passes Amended Chemo Bill Allowing $100 Copays

Senate Must Agree To Copay Amendment For Bill To Progress

wisconsin capitol by night
The Assembly passed the amended chemotherapy bill in the early hours of Friday morning. Photo: okandasan (CC-BY)

The state Assembly passed an amended version of an oral chemotherapy bill Thursday night following an emotional debate that at times got heated and personal.

The original version of the oral chemo bill that passed the Senate on a near-unanimous vote this week would require insurance companies to charge the same for chemotherapy whether it’s delivered in a pill or through an IV. Right now, chemo pills taken at home can cost thousands of dollars per month.

State Rep. Sandy Pasch, D-Milwaukee, tried to get Republicans to pass that bill without changes, asking them to say, “You know what? Enough of that. I’m going to do what’s right for my constituents. I’m going to do what’s right for the people of Wisconsin. I’m going to save some lives tonight.”

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

While Democrats got two GOP lawmakers to join them, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said he and several other Assembly Republicans were troubled with passing an insurance mandate. To placate those concerns, they amended the plan to allow insurance companies to charge co-pays on chemo pills of up to $100 a month.

“What we have here before us today,” Vos said, “is an opportunity to pass a bill that will improve the lives of a whole lot of people.”

Rep. Chris Danou, D-Trempeleau bristled at the idea that Republicans were leading the way on this issue, pointing out that just a week ago, Vos and other Republican leaders were prepared to use parliamentary tricks to block this bill for the rest of the year.

“Let’s not pretend it’s about anything other than the fact that you were shamed into doing this,” Danou said.

Many lawmakers shared stories of their families’ battles with cancer. Rep. Tom Larson, R-Colfax, was choked up as he shared his: “I sat in a room, and I held my daughter’s hand while she took her last breath,” he said. “Don’t tell me that I have to be shamed into signing this bill.”

In the end, the Assembly’s version of the plan passed on a vote of 75-18. The tate Senate still needs to approve the changes.