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Organizations call on West Virginia lawmakers to improve biomarker legislation 

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Organizations call on West Virginia lawmakers to improve biomarker legislation 

Feb 28, 2024 | 9:59 am ET
By Lori Kersey
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Organizations call on West Virginia lawmakers to improve biomarker legislation聽
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The Lincoln Walks at Midnight Statue sits in front of the West Virginia state Capitol building in Charleston, W.Va. (Lexi Browning | West Virginia Watch)

As a bill meant to expand access to “an increasingly important tool in precision medicine,” heads to the West Virginia Senate for consideration, 37 organizations are calling on lawmakers to make improvements to the legislation.

The House of Delegates passed House Bill 4753 Tuesday with a 90 to 4 vote. 

As it was introduced, it required insurance companies, the West Virginia Public Employees Insurance Agency and Medicaid to cover biomarker testing. The American Cancer Society endorsed the bill, saying it would increase access to “precision medicine and improve health outcomes in the state.”

But in a statement Tuesday, the American Cancer Society said due to amendments made to the bill it “will no longer meaningfully improve patients’ access to needed testing.” 

The American Cancer Society and 36 other organizations including the Arthritis Foundation, the State Medical Association, West Virginia Parkinson’s Support Network and the Michael J. Fox Association are now opposing the bill. 

“Biomarker testing is an increasingly important tool in precision medicine, allowing doctors to more accurately diagnose and treat conditions including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, autoimmune conditions and more,” the organizations wrote in a letter asking delegates to vote against the bill. 

“Fourteen states have adopted legislation to expand access to biomarker testing by aligning insurance coverage of this testing with the latest evidence,” they wrote. “While HB 4753 originally did this, it has been dramatically narrowed and will no longer allow patients to access proven and needed testing. Patients in West Virginia should have similar access to testing that is now covered in more than a dozen other states including Texas, Kentucky and Georgia.”

Michelle Zimmerman, a spokeswoman for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, said the issue with the bill is a section that exempts coverage for biomarker testing prior diagnosis of a disease or condition.

“This legislation was never intended to cover screening in a general population or asymptomatic patients. However, diagnostic testing in patients who have already developed a disease or condition — is an essential use of biomarker testing,” she wrote in an email to West Virginia Watch. 

In a statement, Doug Hogan, government relations director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network in West Virginia, urged the Senate to make changes to the bill to allow West Virginians access to the testing they need.

“West Virginia patients deserve access to proven and necessary biomarker tests that can allow them to benefit from the right treatments at the right time — often leading to improved health outcomes, better quality of life, and ultimately cost savings — but this legislation falls short of those goals,” Hogan said.