Senator Portantino’s Access to Cancer Treatment Bill Signed into Law

State Senator Anthony Portantino (Photo By Ross A Benson)

Senate Bill 987, a measure authored by Senator Anthony J. Portantino (D – Burbank) that provides access to lifesaving cancer treatments, was signed into law by Governor Newsom.  SB 987 aims to address significant disparities in cancer patient access by expanding Medi-Cal patient eligibility for necessary clinical expertise and resources.

Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center

“I am grateful to Governor Newsom for signing this life-saving proposal into law,” stated Senator Portantino. “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.  SB 987 provides a more equitable model of health care for cancer patients that will help save lives.”

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.

“This legislation will make optimal cancer care available to more patients and families in California,” said Robert Stone, CEO of City of Hope and the Helen and Morgan Chu Chief Executive Officer Distinguished Chair.  “Governor Newsom is showing the nation how we create a more equitable cancer ecosystem that works better for patients and expands access to lifesaving, leading-edge treatments for those from historically underserved communities.   On behalf of cancer patients and their families, we are grateful for Senator Portantino’s leadership on this legislation and look forward to exploring additional solutions to removing unnecessary barriers that keep cancer patients from achieving improved health outcomes.”