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Taking a Stand for Texans with Cancer

May 12, 2021

Texas Oncology’s leaders and physicians serve patients and their families in many ways – including those that lead them to the floor of the Texas State Capitol in Austin.

Recently, Steven R. Paulson, M.D., president and chairman of the board, Texas Oncology; Kathryn Hudson, M.D., hematologist and medical oncologist at Texas Oncology–Austin Central; and Jim Schwartz, executive director, pharmacy services, testified at the Texas Legislature on behalf of patients on several important state policies, including access to healthcare, the prior authorization process, and fertility preservation, among other topics affecting patients with cancer and those who care for or provide services for them.

Fertility Following Cancer Treatment

“It was an honor to testify at the state Capitol on behalf of Texas Oncology and the Texas Medical Association in support of bill HB 293, which would require insurance companies to cover fertility treatments for Texan cancer survivors,” said Dr. Hudson, noting that fertility is a critical issue to our young cancer survivors since many cancer treatments directly or indirectly cause medically induced fertility. Fertility treatments are available, but most are not covered by insurance, and cost is a huge barrier.

“We believe that just as cancer reconstructive surgery and medications to treat side effects are covered by insurance plans, so should fertility preservation treatments. If this bill is passed, the pain of infertility can be alleviated for cancer survivors,” said Dr. Hudson.

As an organization that serves the entire state of Texas, we are in a unique and advantageous position to advocate for Texan survivors and help get them the coverage and care that they deserve. I am proud of the work that we do. – Kathryn Hudson, M.D."

Bagging Practices, Insurance, and Pharmacy Services

The group also testified against unsafe bagging practices, which refers to the method of chemotherapy administration.

Jim Schwartz, R.Ph., said providing safe, affordable cancer therapies to patients should be a priority, but that’s not the case for some insurance companies and the pharmacies they own – “providing absolutely no value to patients.”

Dr. Steven R. Paulson also had the opportunity to testify in front of the House Insurance committee regarding ‘white-bagging.’

“The most sobering revelation from this experience is the amount of misinformation the insurance lobby asserts as truth to our elected officials,” said Dr. Paulson. “Our team, led by Dr. Debra Patt and Angela Storseth, has done a remarkable job of factually representing our position. Our future well-being as an organization is tied closely to the whims of legislation at both a state and national level, and constant vigilance is critical.”

Debra Patt, M.D., Ph.D., MBA, FASCO, executive vice president, public policy and strategic initiatives, also testified in Austin.

Debra Patt, M.D., Ph.D., MBA, FASCO

“Cancer therapy is changing, and 30-40% of the therapies we give today are taken by mouth instead of intravenously. We expect that number to grow to 60% by 2024. Pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) act as a middle person between insurance companies and pharmacies to intervene when patients get their therapies from a pharmacy. These PBMs have multiple mechanisms to ‘claw back’ payments from insurance companies months after a drug has been dispensed. These claw backs (often known as DIR fees, or direct and indirect remuneration fees) have grown to more than 10% of the cost of the drug and are unsustainable for pharmacies. This challenge has made many pharmacies close,” said Dr. Patt, emphasizing the importance of ensuring pharmacies have the protections necessary to affordably deliver therapy to patients.

Dr. Kathryn Hudson added: “It is critical that we physicians at Texas Oncology continue to work with policy leaders on behalf of Texan cancer survivors. As an organization that serves the entire state of Texas, we are in a unique and advantageous position to advocate for Texan survivors and help get them the coverage and care that they deserve. I am proud of the work that we do.”


For upcoming webinars visit www.TexasOncologyFoundation.org.