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Clinical Trial Bill Passes

April 3, 2013

Cancer patients across Montana got good news last month when the State Legislature approved SB55 requiring insurance coverage for patients participating in clinical trials. Bozeman Deaconess Cancer Center oncologist Jack Hensold, MD, and a number of his patients will be on hand this month for the ceremony when Gov. Steve Bullock signed the bill into law.

Dr. Hensold worked for more than two years to ensure that the cost of standard care, or generally accepted treatment, for a cancer patient in a clinical trial would be covered by their insurer. Costs for experimental drugs being tested in trials are covered by trial sponsors. Insurers had mistakenly thought they were being asked to pay for these new treatments.

"This should increase access of Montana cancer patients to cutting edge treatment without concern for whether their insurance will cover it," said Dr. Hensold. He credits the entire Legislature for their support, particularly Rep. Kathleen Williams of Bozeman who sponsored a bill enacting a working group to examine the issue, Sen. Christine Kaufmann of Billings, who sponsored the bill requiring the coverage, and Sen. Art Wittich of Bozeman who was a strong supporter of the bill.

"But this bill would not have passed without the testimony of cancer patients," Dr. Hensold added. "They told their powerful stories regarding the importance of access to cancer clinical trials."

A number of patients from Bozeman Deaconess Cancer Center testified before the Legislature, and Dr. Hensold went to Helena to testify himself on five separate occasions. He also was a member of the working group, which met more than a half-dozen times for three hours each meeting, and put in many more hours in preparation.

Asked if he would miss the working meetings, Dr. Hensold laughed and said, "Absolutely not. This means I can quit working on this issue, and I'm really happy about that."
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