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State legislators unveil bill that could help cancer patients

In many cases cancer patients can not afford to take part in clinical trials. That's because most insurance companies won't cover the bills. Over the past decade about 20 states have passed laws requiring insurers to cover the costs. Tuesday, Ohio lawmakers unveiled a bill that would ensure clinical trial coverage for Ohioans.

"That's what we're offering here, we're offering hope," David Schuller said.

David Schuller is a surgeon at the James Cancer Hospital at Ohio State University. Schuller said clinical trials not only benefit current patients, but they help future patients by finding new treatments. Many health insurance companies have denied clinical trial coverage, citing high cost as the reason. But Schuller added clinical trial costs actually can be lower than traditional treatments.

"Why? Because a clinical trial will dictate a certain regimen and discipline of x-ray studies and blood tests that are ordered. So, whereas a person not in a clinical trial is open to whatever tests any physician or physicians may want to order including repeating tests by multiple physicians," Schuller said.

State Senator Steve Stivers helped draft the bill. Stivers said in addition to possibly bettering a patient's quality of life, the bill could help boost the local economy.

"This legislation will allow more clinical trials to go on here, and it will improve health outcomes for patients both today and in the future. And it will fuel economic development and jobs right here in Columbus, Ohio. In other parts of Ohio we have great cancer research going on up in Cleveland, and good cancer research going on in Cincinnati and other parts of the state. So, I believe not only will this improve health outcomes for patients, it will improve economic development in Ohio," Stivers added.

The legislation has few stipulations and does not limit where a patient can travel to take part in a cancer clinical trial. The bill would order insurance companies to pay for standard care like blood work, imaging scans and hospital stays. About 55,000 Ohioans learn they have cancer each year.