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Bill would lower cost of chemo pills
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SACRAMENTO  (AP) — Patients undergoing chemotherapy would pay less for pill-based treatments under legislation sent to the governor Wednesday over the objections of some health plans and insurers.

The state Assembly passed AB1000 on 51-12 vote.

It would prohibit health plans and insurance policies from charging more for covering oral chemotherapy than for the intravenous treatment.

Assemblyman Henry Perea, D-Fresno, has said he introduced the bill after meeting patients who traveled long distances for chemotherapy in medical centers because their health plans charged exorbitant fees for the oral version of the treatment. Perea said some had plans charging $10,000 co-payments for pills they could take at home.

The bill has a provision to prevent insurers from hiking the costs of intravenous chemotherapy rather than reducing the cost of the pill alternative as a way to skirt the law.

Health providers, including Kaiser Permanente, have warned that the bill could lead to an increase health care prices and premiums.

The California Chamber of Commerce and other business groups said the private sector has to bear the costs of mandated benefits. The bill exempts the California Public Employees' Retirement System, which administers health plans on behalf of the state and many local governments.

If signed into law, the legislation would take effect in 2013.