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McKinley bill to help patients access critical health care

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A bipartisan bill to help patients gain access to critical health care has been reintroduced before the House of Representatives.

Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., initially introduced the Patient Access to Treatments Act in March 2012, but it died in committee. McKinley and Rep. Lois Capps, D-Calif., and 15 other members of the House co-sponsored the bill in the 113th Congress to allow millions of Americans to access critical treatments that can save lives or improve the quality of life.

"Over the past two years, hearing the stories of patients struggling to pay for medications that would dramatically improve their lives has been heartbreaking," McKinley said in a statement. "After talking with a number of people in these situations, it was clear action was needed."

Patients suffering a variety of ailments, including rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and some forms of cancer can benefit from specialty and biologic drugs, but the cost of those drugs is out of reach for many Americans, according to McKinley. Currently patients who require specialty drugs pay a percentage of the treatments rather than a fixed rate, as is common with most medicine. McKinley's legislation would end the practice of discrimination against specialty drugs by requiring insurers to impose the same co-payments they require for other medication.

"Even the president's health care plan doesn't cover the cost of these expensive drugs," McKinley said. "The law allows prescription drug co-pays to spiral up to $6,000 out-of-pocket for an individual and $12,000 for a family. Medicine is not just for the privileged. No one should have to choose between paying their bills and improving their quality of life."

Capps said Congress owes it to patients to ensure insurance companies follow the rules.

"Too many patients can't afford the high cost sharing requirements imposed on many specialty drugs and are forced to not take their medication as prescribed, or worse, not take it at all," she said in a statement. "This leads to increased complications and costs down the road, for the individual, their family and the entire health care system."