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September 27, 2019

Senator Jones Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Give Patients Timely and Safe Access to Treatment

Legislation would help prevent unnecessary delays in patient care

WASHINGTON – Today, Senator Doug Jones (D-Ala.), alongside Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.), introduced the bipartisan Safe Step Act of 2019. This legislation would amend the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) to require group health plans to streamline “step therapy” protocols and better ensure patients are able to safely and efficiently access treatment.

Step therapy is a process used by health plans to control spending on a patient’s medications. Currently, when a physician prescribes a particular drug treatment for a patient, the patient’s insurance company may require them to try different medications and treatments before they can access the drug originally prescribed by their physician. This protocol is known as “step therapy” or “fail first.” Due to unique medical conditions, this method could have negative impacts on patients, including delayed access to the most effective treatment, severe side effects, and irreversible disease progression.

“This bipartisan bill will help patients get the right treatments they need at the right time,” said Senator Jones, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee. “This is a commonsense proposal that will help patients avoid unnecessary delays in their care.”

The Safe Step Act of 2019 is also cosponsored by Senators Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), and Angus King (I-Maine).

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