New law expands coverage for biomarker testing in cancer patients

(The Center Square) – A cancer advocacy group is applauding a new law in Illinois involving biomarker testing.

Biomarker testing, the medical technology used to determine medical risk factors like cancer, will now be covered under Medicaid as well as state-regulated insurance plans.

Shana Crews, government relations director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, said more Illinoisans will be able to benefit from the latest advances in cancer treatment.

“This is going to lead to huge leaps and bounds improvements, not only extending life, but even treating what used to be deadly diseases as chronic diseases moving forward and no longer talking about months to live but talking about decades to live,” Crews said.

Biomarker testing is a way to look for genes, proteins and other substances that can provide information about cancer. Each person’s cancer has a unique pattern of biomarkers. Some biomarkers affect how certain cancer treatments work.

“The really unique thing about biomarker testing is because it gets the right treatment to the right patient at the right time, there’s a cost savings,” Crews said.

According to GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer, communities that have been marginalized, including communities of color and with lower socioeconomic status, are less likely to receive biomarker testing. Those in rural communities and those receiving care in nonacademic medical centers are also less likely to benefit from biomarker testing.

According to the National Cancer Institute, in 2020, about 600,000 people died of cancer. The most common cancers are breast cancer, lung and bronchus cancer, and prostate cancer.

As of January 2019, there were an estimated 16.9 million cancer survivors in the United States.

“Patients looking to find answers about their health issues will now be able to without worrying about the costs,” said the bill’s cosponsor Sen. Tony Munoz, D-Chicago. “State-regulated insurance plans will cover biomarker testing, which helps figure out the right treatment at the right time to improve the quality of life for patients.”

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