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Calif. Law Requires Cancer Coverage

August 10, 2001

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LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Insurance companies must provide basic medical coverage for cancer patients undergoing experimental treatments under a bill Gov. Gray Davis signed into law Thursday.

Under the law, insurance providers must cover the costs of drugs, doctor visits, lab tests, hospitalizations and other routine services received by cancer patients in clinical trials.

``It’s a historical agreement for the cutting edge of cancer treatment,″ said Davis, outside a University of California, Los Angeles, medical lab where he signed the bill. ``It gives cancer patients literally a new lease on life.″

He said he hopes the law will encourage more cancer patients to enroll in experimental trials and spur medical research leading to better treatments.

Until now, Davis said, insurance payouts for cancer patients undergoing experimental treatments have been hit-or-miss, as insurance providers struggled to define exactly which medical procedures were considered ``routine″ and eligible for coverage.

Expanding coverage will mean a ``modest cost″ for California’s managed care industry, or about less than 1 percent of the state’s annual premium of about $25 billion, said Walter Zelman, president of the California Association of Health Plans, a health insurance trade association.

The new law should prompt another 3,390 Californians to take part in clinical studies, according to the American Cancer Society.

Only 3 percent of adult cancer patients in the nation are enrolled in clinical trials, and legislation in other states places restrictions on the type of procedure or test eligible for coverage, Davis said.

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