Scott Walker says he would sign oral chemo bill passed by Senate

2014-03-19T10:15:00Z Scott Walker says he would sign oral chemo bill passed by SenateMARY SPICUZZA | Wisconsin State Journal | | 608-252-6122


Gov. Scott Walker said he would sign a Senate bill to require insurance companies to cover oral chemotherapy drugs.

"I’d sign the bill the Senate passed so I’m hopeful that’s the bill that will pass the Assembly,” Walker told reporters in Appleton, according to the Appleton Post-Crescent. "If it passes the same way it passed the Senate I would sign it into law."

Walker was in Appleton attending the Governor’s Conference on Emergency Management and Homeland Security at the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel.

The state Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill Tuesday to help make chemotherapy drugs in pill form more affordable for cancer patients, but the proposal’s future in the Assembly remains murky.

While the Republican-led Assembly will take up the bill Thursday — its last scheduled floor day — it may undergo changes. That would mean the Senate would need to pass the new version if the bill is to survive.

The Republican-controlled Senate passed the bill, which would require health plans to provide the same coverage for chemotherapy drugs in pill form as they do for intravenous chemotherapy drugs, on a bipartisan, 30-2 vote. Only two senators — Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa, and Paul Farrow, R-Pewaukee — voted against the bill. Sen. Neal Kedzie, R-Elkorn, was absent.

“When I talk to the medical school and to researchers around the country, they say, ‘Oral chemo is the wave of the future,’ ” said Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, who is a cancer survivor. “So, in a big way today, we’re bringing our statutes up to speed with what the technology is on this drug.”

But Darling, the lead sponsor of the Senate bill, also said that she thinks the Senate vote was a victory, regardless of what happens in the Assembly.

“No matter what happens in the Assembly, we’re going to be doing the right thing,” she said.

The Senate’s vote took place after Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, agreed to allow a vote on the bill after blocking it last week, when he used a rare procedural move to keep it from being debated on the floor. But on Tuesday, Fitzgerald voted in favor of the bill.

The bill then headed to the Assembly, where it faces even more hurdles.

“I call on the Assembly to pass this expeditiously, to pass it as quickly as possible, to get it to the governor’s desk, and sign it,” said Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee. “This is something that helps victims of cancer, helps their families. We should not be standing in the way of it.”

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, has also been using a procedural move to stop a vote on the bill.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which polled state lawmakers, found at least 61 of the 99 Assembly members supported it.

After the Senate passed the bill Tuesday, Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca of Kenosha tried to force a vote on the bill in the Assembly.

“There’s more than enough votes to pass it,” Barca said.

Majority Leader Pat Strachota, R-West Bend, the lead sponsor of the bill in the Assembly, told Barca that she was “working diligently” on behalf of the bill. But Strachota added that she needs to discuss the issue with her fellow Republicans to make sure the majority of the caucus supports the bill.

Vos accused Democrats of “playing politics” but said the bill would be added to Thursday’s calendar for a vote. Still, he made it clear that changes may be made to the proposal.

Those changes could potentially kill the bill. The Senate would need to approve those changes on its last session day, April 1, because both bodies need to pass an identical version of legislation for it to head to Walker’s desk for his signature.

Fitzgerald said that if the Assembly amends the bill, the Senate would probably take it up on April 1.

Fitzgerald also said that the decision to take it up Tuesday reflected the typical pressure that surfaces at the end of each session on various pieces of legislation. And he said his decision to block the bill last week was to ensure “we did it on our own terms, and obviously we did that today.”

Fitzgerald previously came under fire for blocking the bill, in part because his younger brother, Jeff Fitzgerald, a lobbyist and former Assembly speaker, was working for insurance companies that oppose the bill.

On Tuesday, Democrats applauded Fitzgerald for bringing the bill to the floor, but they criticized Vos for suggesting the bill needed changes.

“Pretending like a compromise is needed is ridiculous,” said Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton. “This bill is not new. This bill has bipartisan support.”

A broad coalition of cancer support and health advocacy groups support the measure as a means to make expensive chemotherapy in pill form available to more people.

Opponents, including health insurers, warned that it will drive up costs and amounts to a legislative mandate.

“The governor will review the bill when or if it comes to his desk,” Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said.

Walker’s Democratic challenger, former state Commerce Secretary Mary Burke, said Tuesday she supports it and would sign it.

“That’s why people buy insurance, isn’t it?” Burke told reporters when asked about it after a luncheon panel discussion.

— State Journal reporter Matthew DeFour and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright 2015 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(44) Comments

  1. rodeodance
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    rodeodance - March 19, 2014 8:13 pm
    Yes, he was.
  2. rodeodance
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    rodeodance - March 19, 2014 8:12 pm
    So, what is the rush? The legislature basically works a few months a year--yet they pull full salary and benefits. Good deal for them--bad for taxpayers.
  3. BRS
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    BRS - March 19, 2014 1:50 pm
    I don't know where you get your facts scorp but my wife and I will save over $6000 dollars this year and our deductible went from $5000 to$1000.It would have even been cheaper if Scotty had done what MN did,create their own market place and accepted Medicaid .MN pays half as much as we do.And yes I agree with you the prices they charge are immoral.But I don't think the legislators are going to bite the hand that feeds them.
  4. BRS
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    BRS - March 19, 2014 1:36 pm
    ski,I see you're still only telling part of the story as I pointed out to you in an earlier post.Emanuel used an example of a man that had aids and aids related dementia,no chance of a cure.So would you spend thousands of dollars treating someone that will never get better?If I was him I would take the pain pill and die peacefully and painlessly.If this is your defense of this crap your teaparty repubs are pulling it's a very poor one.If this bill is passed it will give people a chance for an easier way to be cured if not the only way.You and Sarah Palin should get together an talk about the death panels,the insurance companies and the in their pocket republicans have created.
  5. witness2012
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    witness2012 - March 19, 2014 11:27 am
    This law already exists in 29 other states and there has been no change in premium levels.

  6. 196ski
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    196ski - March 19, 2014 11:10 am
    I think you are confused with the ACA. Remember when Obama said take the pain pill and skip the treatment?

    Are you familiar with Ezekiel Emanuel, the author of the ACA? Interesting fellow, he thinks that health care should be allocated based on an individuals potential to contribute to society.
  7. College Didn't Take
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    College Didn't Take - March 19, 2014 11:05 am
    The message is loud and clear from Fitz and Walker who are vulnerable in this year's elections. Vos, being relatively safe in the gerrymandered district he represents will play the fall guy and Fitz and Walker can say, "it wasn't our fault this thing never got brought up for a vote." Nobody's fooled any longer.
  8. sriver
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    sriver - March 19, 2014 9:37 am
    Republicans just want you to use their alternative Republican health care plan which is "die quickly and painfully".
  9. HockeyTeam
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    HockeyTeam - March 19, 2014 9:13 am
    Didn't skyrocket for me. With no check for pre-existing conditions our company saved an average of $300/employee/month for better coverage.
  10. JAFO
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    JAFO - March 19, 2014 9:06 am
    The only other reasons someone might be against the bill other than that noted by would be graft and corruption. That's why they only included the one sentence.
  11. JAFO
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    JAFO - March 19, 2014 9:03 am
    The Affordable Health Care Act was signed in 2010. Are you saying there have been no discoveries or changes regarding available medical and health care procedures since then? You must live in a cocoon.
  12. davea
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    davea - March 19, 2014 8:57 am
    SO TRUE!
  13. davea
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    davea - March 19, 2014 8:51 am
    There hasn't, and probably never will be a reason to find out!
  14. davea
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    davea - March 19, 2014 8:50 am
  15. davea
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    davea - March 19, 2014 8:49 am
    The list of reasons to vote them all out keeps getting longer and longer and - - - - - - -
  16. davea
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    davea - March 19, 2014 8:45 am
    Not yet!
  17. truthzeeker
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    truthzeeker - March 19, 2014 7:40 am
    Am sure glad you popped in to explain all this. We are talking about a procedure that is much simpler and makes it easier to fight cancer. Apparently you have never had chemotherapy. But being a typical party-of-no spokesperson, you don't really care about the average person who is only trying to avoid pain. How sad!
  18. bluffsinview
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    bluffsinview - March 19, 2014 7:33 am
    I cannot understand how anyone with a shred of morality or ethics could vote for any current WI Republican legislator, except Dale Schultz, who is not running again because he's ashamed of his corrupt Republican colleagues and how they've handled the power they were given by uninformed voters. Robin Vos, Scott Fitzgerald, and the ones who blindly follow their examples are the most despicable human beings WI has ever been subjected to. The party of family values and "Christianity" is a joke.
  19. sarge
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    sarge - March 19, 2014 4:38 am
    Do doctors profit directly from the prescriptions they write? Is it cheaper and safer to prescribe pills than to maintain a picc line or infusaport for clinic based or inpatient chemo? Is it cheaper to risk a blood infection from a central line than to take pills at home? Who profits ?
  20. BMan
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    BMan - March 18, 2014 11:17 pm
    Carrie, if you were on the inside, I'll believe you, but it sounded to me like they were pulling their amendments on everything today. Gibby, I hear you, the old adage about sausage comes to mind, and in the end, everyone got what they wanted. Aside from anything that happened today, I find it incredible that the Affordable Care Act did not address the issue.
  21. scorp
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    scorp - March 18, 2014 11:15 pm
    The Bill appears to require the Ins co to pay for the extremely expensive procedure . With Obamacare skyrocketing the costs of insurance and deductibles, very few will be able to afford health insurance when the premiums in Wis rise further because of the goofball legislation. The "pill' appears to be more of a convenience than a better cure . Would make more sense to legislate that the drs and pharmacies cannot charge such outrageous prices for the pills. The drs and pill makers get rich by charging such high prices and the residents pay more in premiums to ins , the drs ,pharmacies, and pill makers must have paid a fortune to the legislators for this windfall!
  22. LeftCoastConservative
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    LeftCoastConservative - March 18, 2014 11:05 pm
    There was roughly one sentence in this entire piece of attempted journalism that described why someone was against the bill. Hey! Here's an idea... Instead of promoting an ideal why don't you make a viable attempt at being journalists. Seriously, your pathetic. All the bleeding hearts in the world have absolutely no ability to make an informed decision about a topic like this when you're so disgustingly biased.
  23. gibbyplayer
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    gibbyplayer - March 18, 2014 10:55 pm
    Add to my previous post. As the father of a very young cancer survivor, that doesn't make me feel good about republicans.
  24. gibbyplayer
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    gibbyplayer - March 18, 2014 10:53 pm
    So layoff the non-related bills and we will do the right thing with cancer meds?
  25. CarrieS
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    CarrieS - March 18, 2014 10:49 pm
    Bman, the Dems' deal was they would pull their amendments that had to do with SB 300. They kept that deal. Both the sides are pleased with the outcome. It was bipartisan, and no legislator on either side wants drama from it.
  26. BMan
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    BMan - March 18, 2014 10:00 pm
    The deal announced by Erpenbach, was that the Democrats would pull all their amendments on other bills if SB 300 would be brought to the floor. Once they passed the bill, the Democrats offered amendments to a few other bills.
  27. gibbyplayer
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    gibbyplayer - March 18, 2014 9:11 pm
    Waiting for you to answer the question of CarrieS.
  28. witness2012
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    witness2012 - March 18, 2014 8:16 pm
    Well, Burke has made clear she would sign it.

    We're beginning to see some contrast in issue positions between the two gubernatorial candidates. If Walker doesn't want this to be a campaign issue- and I can see the ads now- he should call Robin Vos and make sure the assembly votes on it in the form it is now in and then he should sign it.

    People with cancer or who have had a family member who has had cancer will remember this vote.
  29. CarrieS
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    CarrieS - March 18, 2014 7:32 pm
    Bman, what "end of the deal" were Dems supposed to uphold?
  30. John_Galt
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    John_Galt - March 18, 2014 7:10 pm
    The media would not give Walker credit for anything no matter how great it could be.
  31. JUST US
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    JUST US - March 18, 2014 6:48 pm
    If Vos screws this up..... Walker has to call a special session to get this bill passed otherwise he is complicit in the demise of this bill. He had better take Vos aside and lay out the game plan because the media and the public are not going to give either Walker or Vos a pass on this one.
  32. BMan
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    BMan - March 18, 2014 6:08 pm
    Fitzgerald played this one well, too bad the Democrats didn't uphold their end of the deal.
  33. John Fuller
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    John Fuller - March 18, 2014 5:30 pm
    Fitz was shamed into action.
  34. koala
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    koala - March 18, 2014 5:02 pm
  35. toby
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    toby - March 18, 2014 2:57 pm
    Another excellent example of why we need to do something about career politicians beholding to their donors.
  36. JAFO
    Report Abuse
    JAFO - March 18, 2014 2:52 pm
    If the Assembly goes along with this, it is clear that David & Charles have figured out a way to make a buck off if this.
  37. 2dave2
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    2dave2 - March 18, 2014 2:49 pm
    Mr. Popcorns campaign account is open for business. Reach his goal and maybe he gives you a vote, or maybe not.
  38. joe kallas
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    joe kallas - March 18, 2014 2:18 pm
    The only reason Senator Scott F. brought it up for a vote was the negative press he was getting about his brother being a lobbyist for the insurance companies. If the Assembly kills it, they should all be voted out.
  39. deadendroad
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    deadendroad - March 18, 2014 2:05 pm
    I bet the only reason Fitzy allowed this to come up for a vote is he knows its not going anywhere in the Assembly. Little Fitzy has already bought off Vos...
  40. Norby
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    Norby - March 18, 2014 1:26 pm
    My god, they actually did something constructive!
  41. johnnn
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    johnnn - March 18, 2014 1:26 pm
    Clearly Vos considers his seat safer than Fitzgerald's and he can be the fall guy while Fitz can boast about his "support."
  42. Mr Mellow
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    Mr Mellow - March 18, 2014 11:58 am
    Apparently enough GOP Senators did not want one of their last acts before campaigning to be denying cancer patients needed healthcare coverage. Looks heartless, you know.

    If the bill passes the Senate, then the focus will shift to the GOP-dominated Assembly. If Vos and friends stonewall the bill, then it's dead for this session.

    The Assembly is solidly Republican -- unlike the narrow majority the GOP has in the Senate. Today's planned vote could just be intended to take the heat off vulnerable GOP Senators.
  43. JUST US
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    JUST US - March 18, 2014 11:50 am
    It will be interesting to see if those who indicted that they supported the bill will honor their commitment or they will follow Walker's silence signal that he want the bill to die. Should it pass does Vos do the right thing or is he secure enough that he takes one for the team and causes the bill to die. All Walker has to say is bring he bill to my desk but apparently that would be selling out his special interest donors in favor of the people of this state. He would prefer to sit on the fence and not be held accountable to anyone [ like the casino bill].
  44. truthzeeker
    Report Abuse
    truthzeeker - March 18, 2014 11:34 am
    Well, well, well. Apparently the Insurance owned politicians have come to their senses and are going to pass legislation for the majority of citizens and not for the monied few. Aren't they?

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