We had a wonderful group of advocates join us for 2018 State Breast Cancer Advocacy Day on January 30 to make their voices heard at the General Assembly.
The day started with training presentations by Kenneth Gilliam Jr, from the HAV Coalition on expanding coverage to the uninsured, Jenn Michelle Pedini from VA NORML on medical cannabis and Becky Bowers-Lanier on step therapy. Then advocates met with their individual delegates and senators at the General Assembly to discuss our policy priorities (see below). Afterwards, Dr. Dan Carey, newly appointed Secretary of Health and Human Resources, and Michele Chesser, Executive Director of the Joint Commission on Health Care spoke to the group.
VBCF’s Priority Legislation for the 2018 General Assembly
Increase Access to Healthcare for ALL Virginians -Support for HB 348 (Sickles)
Every month Virginia loses an average of $142 million in federal funding. Since 2014, the Commonwealth has forfeited over $10 billion in federal funds, which could have been used to help uninsured adults, hospitals, and businesses. Most states have expanded their Medicaid programs. While Virginians suffer without coverage, 31 states and the District of Columbia are providing health insurance to uninsured adults. Those states are seeing significant health and financial benefits. Expanding access will mean that more women will be able to secure breast cancer screenings and treatment. The Latest: Current debate centers around adding a work requirement for those receiving Medicaid.
Use of Medical Cannabis for Cancer Patients – Support for HB 1251 (Cline), SB 726 (Dunnavant) – Based on The National Institute of Health’s National Cancer Institute information, “the potential benefits of medicinal cannabis for people living with cancer include antiemetic effects, appetite stimulation, pain relief, and improved sleep.” HB 1251 and SB 726 provide for a practitioner to issue a written certification for the use of cannabidiol (CBD) oil or THC-A for the treatment or to alleviate the symptoms of any diagnosed condition or disease. These bills in one form or another provide an affirmative defense to prosecution for possession if a person has a valid written certification issued by a practitioner for CBD oil or THC-A oil. Under current law, only the treatment of intractable epilepsy is covered by this defense. The Latest: On 2/2/18, HB 1251 was passed in the Virginia House of Delegates. On 2/5/18, the Virginia Senate voted unanimously to pass SB 726, which will let Virginia doctors recommend the use of cannabidiol oil or THC-A oil for the treatment of any diagnosed condition or disease. Since the bills are identical, the steps forward are largely procedural: the bills will “crossover” to the opposite house for a vote, before heading to Governor Northam’s desk for signature. Governor Ralph Northam, also a doctor, is already on record in support of Let Doctors Decide medical marijuana laws in the Commonwealth. Passage of this historic legislation would make Virginia the first state with a hyper-restrictive program to adopt such a broad expansion.
Improve Protocols for Step Therapy – Support for HB 386 (Davis) and SB 574 (DeSteph) to make step therapy better and safer for Virginians -Step therapy occurs when a doctor prescribes a medicine, but the insurance company requires the patient to try alternate, cheaper drugs first, with no clinical justification. Step therapy can delay patient access to medication, causing adverse reactions and allowing their health to deteriorate. HB 386 and SB 574 put an online process in place for health care providers to request overrides for step therapy protocols for patients for whom the insurer- mandated drug is clinically determined to cause adverse health events or be ineffective, as well as those who have already met step therapy requirements and ensures that providers are notified in writing if their request is denied. The Latest: On 2/1/18, the House Commerce and Labor subcommittee voted to recommend to the full committee that HB 386 should be “passed by indefinitely” meaning the bill is dead for this session. On 2/6/18 the House Finance Committee voted to recommend that SB 574 be “continued until 2019 in Finance” meaning it will be considered during the next General Assembly session.