OCEAN CITY — In a fitting tribute to a beloved Ocean City resident who lost her battle with cancer last August, a bill introduced in the Maryland General Assembly last week in her name would level the playing field for insurance coverage for both the intravenous and oral forms of chemotherapy.
Last Friday, State Senator Catherine Pugh (D-40), with co-sponsorship by 25 other state senators including Sen. Jim Mathias (D-38), introduced the Kathleen A. Mathias Chemotherapy Parity Act of 2012, legislation aimed at ensuring insurance companies, health service plans and health maintenance organizations provide equal levels of coverage for chemotherapy regardless of whether or not the treatments are administered intravenously or orally. The bill is named in honor of the late Kathy Mathias, the long-time municipal employee and the wife of Sen. Jim Mathias, who succumbed to cancer last August after a 14-year battle with the disease.
The legislation, if approved, would prevent insurance carriers, health service plans and HMOs from placing limits on coverage or expanding co-payments on chemotherapy treatments administered orally. While most carriers cover intravenous chemotherapy treatments entirely, orally administered treatments often come with higher co-pays, big deductibles or coverage limits. The Kathleen A. Mathias Chemotherapy Parity Act of 2012 is an attempt to make both forms of treatment equal in terms of insurance coverage.
“There are a variety of reasons why doctors believe in some cases the pill is better than the drip,” said Mathias this week. “This bill would ensure parity when it comes to coverage and put the decision in the hands of the doctors to make a determination of what is best for their individual patients.”
Mathias said this week when both forms of the same chemotherapy treatment are available, the insurance carriers often cover the IV form completely while putting coverage limitations on the pill form, which often cost hundreds of dollars per pill. Since the pills are a fairly recent treatment option, many of the insurance carriers are uncertain how to fit them into their traditional coverage areas, resulting in higher premiums or deductibles, lower coverage limits and greater out-of-pocket expense for the patients and their families.
Mathias said this week he was somewhat taken aback when approached by his colleagues about putting Kathy’s name on the legislation. He said the idea was first presented to him last Tuesday, ironically Kathy’s birthday.
“All I can say is I’m very, very touched,” he said. “They came to me with this on her birthday, even though they didn’t know it was her birthday. Talk about divine intervention. This is a gift from heaven.”
Well before Kathy Mathias was diagnosed with cancer, she was heavily involved fighting the disease and spreading awareness in Ocean City and across the Lower Shore. She was the founder and first president of the Worcester County branch of the American Cancer Society and spent countless hours advocating for awareness and fundraising. Even after her diagnosis and her continued battle, she remained at the forefront of the awareness and advocacy campaign in the resort area and across the Lower Shore. For that reason, it is fitting a piece of legislation aimed at helping those in the same battle should bear her name.
“Throughout Kathy’s battle, we promised the American Cancer Society and the Pink Ribbon ladies we could continue the fight,” said Mathias this week. “Throughout the fight, Kathy benefitted from people whom she had never met and now, hopefully, people who she never met with benefit from her. I promised I would remain committed to the fight and I hope to see this through.”