STATE HOUSE —House Deputy Majority Whip Mia Ackerman spoke at the annual Cancer Action Network’s 2023 Cancer Action Day Event yesterday about the need to assist cancer patients struggling with high medical bills. She is sponsoring legislation that would let cancer patients meet their deductible faster by banning an insurance company practice called “copay accumulator adjustments. This would help patients afford life-saving medications and treatment.
“Families battling cancer have enough to deal with,” said Representative Ackerman (D-Dist. 45, Cumberland, Lincoln). “They should not also be overwhelmed by medical bills. This legislation would help relieve some financial pressure so patients can focus on their recovery.”
A relatively new insurance company practice, copay accumulator adjustments allow the enrollee to use copay assistance, but the amount of the support does not count towards the enrollee’s out-of-pocket cost sharing requirements, like their deductible. Even as the insurance companies are getting paid on behalf of the patient, only the funds spent directly by the enrollee count towards that individual’s deductible, leaving patients with significant and surprise costs.
A 2016 report from the AARP found that 25% of Rhode Island residents stopped taking their prescribed medications due to high costs. That can be especially true for newer treatments, including many cancer drugs, for which there is not yet a generic equivalent.
The legislation (2023-H 6159) would require insurance companies to count manufacturer or other rebates towards a cancer patient’s deductible. That would help patients reach their deductible sooner which would result in lower annual costs for cancer treatment and fewer surprise costs.
“Copay adjustment programs put patients and their families in an impossible situation – having to choose between their health and other financial obligations,” said Ryan Strik, Rhode Island Director of Government Relations for ACS CAN. “We’re grateful to Deputy Majority Whip Ackerman for introducing this bill to help ensure more Rhode Island cancer patients and others can afford the care they need.”
Representative Ackerman received the 2023 Public Service Award from the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network and Brown University’s Legoretta Cancer Center for her work combating cancer. She has championed many pieces of legislation including a 2018 bill (2018-H 7136) that prohibits minors from using tanning beds, a 2021 bill (2021-H 5432A) to cover preventative colorectal cancer screenings, and a 2022 bill (2022-H 7587A) requiring private health insurers to cover biomarker testing.
“Out of all of our responsibilities as legislators, the one that fills my heart with pride the most is our ability to help save lives. We can only do that with strong partners like the American Cancer Society and the Cancer Action Network. I, the Rhode Island legislature, and the whole state thank you for your efforts,” Representative Ackerman said.