Jun. 13, 2024

Biomarker Testing Legislation Will Improve and Expedite Care

As June progresses and the June 30 deadline for the General Assembly to adopt a budget looms, the political divide that sometimes slows the passage of legislation is only increasing.

But every so often, the right bill, one that can really help Pennsylvanians, is considered on the House floor and draws the support of nearly every House member. Last week, such a bill was passed.

House Bill 1754 would require insurance coverage of biomarker testing by both commercial insurance and government-sponsored plans, subject to federal approval.

In the medical world, biomarker testing is a component of precision medicine, which uses genetic or molecular testing in prevention, diagnosis and treatment of different medical conditions.

Testing of biomarkers has already been helpful in the treatment of cancer. Such tests allow doctors to look at an individual patient’s genes, proteins and other testing sources. 

According to the National Cancer Institute, every patient has a unique pattern of biomarkers. When doctors test those biomarkers in existing cancer patients, a treatment plan can be tailored specifically for that patient.

The American Cancer Society notes as an example that patients with certain lung cancers who received biomarker testing and then a targeted therapy saw a 31% reduction in risk of death. This is not only because the treatment is better targeted for the individual patient, but because biomarkers also provide information about how and if the cancer may spread.

Biomarker testing has also been used successfully in assembling treatment plans for rheumatoid arthritis patients. The biomarker called anti-cyclic citrullinated peptides usually appear before symptoms develop, which helps doctors diagnose the disease earlier and then develop a treatment plan that is likely to be more successful than if treatment began after symptoms appeared.

It's unfortunate, but similar to government, sometimes insurance standards work at a slower pace than technology, which is why House Bill 1754 is necessary. By increasing access to more expedient and efficient diagnoses, treatment costs are likely to decrease because doctors can be more selective in choosing which medications and therapies to use.

Now referred to the Senate, House Bill 1754 has been passed by that chamber’s Banking and Insurance Committee. If passed by the entire Senate without amendment, it could be sent to the governor’s desk very soon.

I will be certain to keep readers informed should House Bill 1754 be written into law. If biomarker testing is covered by more insurance plans, patients need to be aware of this technology and how it can help them. 

In 2023, legislation sought by Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward to make the early detection of breast cancer more available was passed and signed by Gov. Josh Shapiro. The new law removed out-of-pocket costs for genetic testing for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndromes, as well as supplemental breast screenings for women with a high lifetime risk of breast cancer.

Here are some additional news topics and reminders I would like to share.

Join Me for a Telephone Town Hall - On Tuesday, June 25, at 5:30 p.m., please tune in for another Telephone Town Hall! Special guest, House Republican Appropriations Chairman Seth Grove, will be joining us to discuss the ongoing budget negotiations and other topics coming out of Harrisburg. His knowledge of the budget process is extensive, and he will be providing up-to-date details. Call in directly by dialing 877-229-8493 and using ID code 122184.

Save the Date – Be certain to mark your calendar for my Community Health, Wellness and Career Fair, being held on Saturday, July 27, from 10a.m. to 1p.m. at Knead Café, Banquet on Barnes, 1011 Barnes St. in New Kensington. This free event is available to residents throughout the 55th District. Meet the organizations that serve our neighborhoods! There will also be a prize raffle and live bloodhound presentation.

Juneteenth National Freedom Day - This Wednesday, June 19, is Juneteenth National Freedom Day. Considered the longest-running African American holiday, Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when union soldiers reached Galveston, Texas – the furthest point in the south – with news of the end of the Civil War, which had occurred two months earlier with the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Virginia. 

The troops’ arrival also came two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all slaves and ending slavery in the United States.

Accordingly, all state offices, including PennDOT driver license and photo centers, will be closed. PennDOT customers may still obtain a variety of driver and vehicle products and services, including all forms, publications and driver training manuals, online through PennDOT's Driver and Vehicle Services website, www.dmv.pa.gov.

Learn more about the history of Juneteenth by visiting www.history.com/news/what-is-juneteenth.

Don’t Let Ticks Ruin Your Summer! - School is out, and the summer season officially kicks off June 20. As you head outside to enjoy all the activities Pennsylvania has to offer, be sure to take extra steps to protect yourself and your loved ones against ticks and associated illnesses such as Lyme Disease. Here are a few tips from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to keep in mind!

Walk in the center of trails.
Use EPA-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-methane-diol or 2-undercanone.
Bathe or shower within two hours after coming indoors to find and wash off ticks.
Check your entire body for ticks with a mirror after returning from outdoors.
Examine your gear and pets to keep ticks from being brought inside.
Tumble dry clothes on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on clothing.

Representative Jill Cooper
55th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Jordan Frei
jillCooper.com / Facebook.com/RepJillCooper