Gov. Notham signs legislation to increase access to critical health care

Posted at 4:41 PM, Mar 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-16 16:41:11-04

Richmond, Va. – Gov. Northam signed legislation on Wednesday that will increase the access to critical health care.

Fair Health Care VA, a coalition of patient, provider, and health care advocacy groups that help secure access to life-saving treatments for Virginians, applauded Governor Ralph Northam for signing House Bill 2126.

The bill improves an insurance requirement known as step therapy or “fail first” protocols.

Step therapy protocols, implemented by insurance companies, require a patient to try and fail on one or more older, often less expensive medications before they can receive the treatment originally prescribed by their doctor.

“I am thrilled that Governor Northam has agreed with the General Assembly that all Virginians, especially those with chronic, complex or disabling conditions, deserve a faster and more efficient process to access the care their doctor prescribes,” said Dr. Harry Gewanter, a pediatric rheumatologist in Richmond, Advocacy Chair of the Arthritis Foundation’s Virginia Chapter, and a Fair Health Care VA advocate. “This legislation will ensure that one more barrier to patient-centered, personalized treatment is eliminated in Virginia. We look forward to the effective implementation of this legislation as it will result in reduced frustration by patients, reduced administrative overhead for physicians and reduced costs for the Commonwealth.”

Last month, the bill passed the Virginia House and Senate with unanimous bipartisan support. Virginia is now the 20th state to take action to improve step therapy.

In some cases, patients who have already failed on these medications must fail a second, or even third time, before receiving the lifesaving treatment they need.

HB 2126, introduced by Delegate Glenn Davis of Virginia Beach, improves step therapy by creating an expedited, transparent, and evidence-based system when a patient’s unique situation requires a deviation from step therapy.

“I tried and failed three times on the same chemotherapy for my stage four lymphoma before I was finally able to get the life-saving cure that resulted in my first cancer-free scan in 20 years,” said Tom Ema, a patient advocate with the Coalition. “As a patient who has experienced step therapy, I know how important it is for patients to have access to the high-quality care they need, not just the treatment that happens to be cheapest. I’m thankful that step therapy reform has been signed into law and patients will now be able to access the treatment prescribed by their doctor immediately.”