Portantino Honored with Legislative Hero of Hope Award

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Senator Anthony J. Portantino (D – Burbank) was honored with the Legislative Hero of Hope Award for authoring Senate Bill 987, a life-saving bill signed by Governor Newsom last year that ensures a more equitable model of health care for cancer patients. SB 987 addresses significant disparities in cancer patient access by expanding Medi-Cal patient eligibility for necessary clinical expertise and resources. The Senator received the award during a ceremony at City of Hope in Duarte.

“I am grateful and honored to receive the Legislative Hero of Hope Award from City of Hope,” stated Senator Portantino. “It was a team effort to push forward this life-saving cancer treatment proposal and I want to thank everyone for their support. With advances in cancer science and more effective treatments, it is critical that we ensure all cancer patients have access to new science and technology that can improve health outcomes for patients and their families.”

The CDC lists cancer as the second-leading cause of death in California. More than 187,000 Californians are diagnosed with cancer every year, and thousands of them will be misdiagnosed or placed on inappropriate or ineffective treatment.

SB 987, the California Cancer Care Equity Act, aims to improve cancer care access, cancer survival, and patient experience by enhancing Medi-Cal patient access to necessary clinical expertise and resources at NCI-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers. The bill parallels the current Medi-Cal coverage model that allows Medi-Cal beneficiaries to have access to certain life-saving care services at a Center of Excellence, even if that center is not included in the member’s provider network. Specifically, SB 987 expands the existing set of care diagnoses for which such enhanced access is provided and includes clinically necessary cancer care services such as genomic/genetic/transcriptomic/proteomic testing, clinical trials participation, and all necessary cancer-related outpatient and inpatient clinical care, defined episode of care.

SB 987 requires Medi-Cal managed care providers to inform enrollees of their eligibility to receive enhanced care and ensures primary care doctors in contract with those managed care providers inform enrollees with any information they need to decide between relevant treatment options.  The bill also requires that decisions to approve, deny, or modify a patient’s request for optimal care are made within a 72-hour time window to shorten the window between diagnosis and treatment.

“City of Hope is grateful for Senator Anthony Portantino’s leadership and tireless efforts to help democratize cancer care – both as a lawmaker who represents our Los Angeles campus and as a champion of health equity,” said Harlan Levine, M.D., City of Hope president of health innovation and policy. “His introduction and support of the California Cancer Care Equity Act paved the way for creating a more equitable system that expands access to lifesaving, leading-edge cancer treatments and helps save more lives. On behalf of cancer patients and their families, we thank the Senator and are honored to present him with City of Hope’s Legislative Heroes of Hope Award.”

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