TAMPA - "I can tell you my legs just kind of bowed." That was Kevin Hansut's reaction when told he had renal cancer. A gut-wrenching moment in and of itself, but just the beginning of a struggle to survive, a fight that wasn't just about cancer, but also about cost.
After two surgeries, "They told me my survival at that point was about taking a pill."
Doctors said the oral medication student should keep his cancer in check. His wife Debra says, "The drug Kevin takes is a $10,000 drug."
Ten thousand dollars a month - and he'd have to take it for the rest of his life. Not a problem when his insurance company covered it. But when they stopped, he says his monthly bill went from a $40 co-pay to around $2,500 a month. Every month.
Kevin says, "We wouldn't have survived. That's 80 percent of my salary."
The Hansuts went looking for help. Kevin went to the pharmaceutical company,who put him on a temporary payment plan. Debra went to Tallahassee to push for reform. Legislators in the house and senate are now pushing through an oral parity bill.
State Representative Debbie Mayfield says, "The difference now is how it's covered medically. The oral is covered under your pharmaceutical, which has a higher out-of-pocket expense. The IV treatment is covered under your medical plan, which has a lower out-of-pocket expense. What the bill aims to do is to treat any cancer treatment the same when it comes to out-of-pocket expense."
The bill's co-sponsor lost her husband to gastro esophageal cancer in 2008. She says, "When you start looking at the number of lives that cancer touches, it's like I just felt like I needed to do something about it."
Kevin's wife adds, "My concern is were allowing insurance companies to determine whether your life is worth it."
The bill's other co-sponsor, Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto, says some of the resistance by insurance companies is being ironed out. "We addressed one of the issues, which was the implementation timeline that we had. Insurance companies who said we don't oppose the bill on its face, but we just want some time to implement it."
The bill is still moving through the state house and senate, and advocates Kevin and Debra are keeping an eye on its progress. Not just for their family, but for all of ours.
For more information on the bill from the Alliance for Access to Cancer Care, go to https://www.facebook.com/#!/cancercarefl?fref=ts .