Senator Zaffirini Passes Bill to Cover Routine Costs for Patients in Clinical Trials

(AUSTIN) — Texans with life-threatening illnesses will be able to enroll in clinical trials with the hope of finding a cure while having their routine care costs covered by their health insurance.

Currently, because they must choose between the two, only three percent of eligible oncology patients enroll in clinical trials. Fortunately, the Texas Legislature resolved this unacceptable scenario.

Passed unanimously on Friday (May 29), Senate Bill (SB) 39 by Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, requires insurance companies to cover routine medical care for persons who choose to participate in life-saving clinical trials.

The bill will allow patients with critical illnesses to enroll in clinical trials without fear of their insurance companies refusing to reimburse the costs of routine medical expenses or of dropping them completely from coverage.

“I am proud to champion legislation that will protect patients’ rights and to encourage enrollment in clinical trials that could produce life-saving treatments for critical illnesses,” Senator Zaffirini said.

Twenty-five states have passed legislation or entered into agreements requiring health plans to cover routine care costs for clinical trials participants.

“Clinical trials drive our progress against cancer and many other life-threatening illnesses, and they often are the most promising option for patients with disease resistant to standard therapy,” said Dr. John Mendelsohn, president of The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, home of the largest clinical trials program for cancer in the world.

He stressed that “breaking down barriers to patient participation, such as coverage of routine care, only stands to accelerate our advances, and, ultimately, our quest to provide the greatest hope for each individual patient. Covering the cost of the routine aspects of care provided by a clinical trial, but not the cost of the experimental therapy or any extra tests needed, is a logical and highly beneficial next step.”

The bill was sent to the governor for his consideration. He can sign it, allow it to become law without his signature or veto it.

Unless vetoed, SB 39 will become effective on Sept. 1.

Senate Passes Zaffirini’s Tuition Deregulation Bill

(AUSTIN) — The Texas Senate on Monday (May 4) unanimously voted to cap college tuition and fees and tie them to state appropriations.

Senate Bill (SB) 1443 by Senator Judith Zaffirini, Chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee, would provide financial relief to students and their families, while recognizing the shared responsibility of the legislature and higher education institutions to keep college affordable and accessible without sacrificing excellence.

The bill focuses on total academic costs, not simply on tuition; caps increases and links them to formula funding; offers an optional 4-year guaranteed tuition rate; includes additional cost-cutting measures; and establishes legislative oversight.

A priority of Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, the bill is co-sponsored by 26 senators. It would provide tuition relief and increase access to higher education by limiting the amount general academic teaching institutions are permitted to raise designated tuition for a given biennium based on the amount of general revenue appropriated by the state.

“I am delighted that the Lieutenant Governor and 31 senators voted to provide financial relief to Texas families,” Senator Zaffirini said. “Keeping college affordable without sacrificing excellence is among my top higher education priorities.”

Specifically, SB 1443 would cap increases in total academic costs to the lesser of the rate of inflation or five percent and links tuition and fees to formula funding.

“Hard work during the interim based on a charge from Lt. Gov. Dewhurst and collaboration with university students and leaders across the state resulted in this bill,” Senator Zaffirini said. “Only by reaching consensus among them and their respective senators could we pass this legislation.”

SB 1443 was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration. The continued progress of this and all bills authored by Senator Zaffirini can be monitored via the internet at www.legis.state.tx.us or by contacting the Texas Legislative Reference Library’s toll free in-state hotline, 1-877-824-7038.