Bill would make Carter’s cancer treatment open to more Ga. patients

A South Georgia lawmaker wants to allow more cancer patients to receive the same treatment that former President Jimmy Carter says eliminated signs of his disease.

State Rep. Mike Cheokas, R-Americus, represents Carter’s hometown of Plains. Tuesday, he filed legislation with bipartisan support in the state House that would require any insurance company that offers health care plans in Georgia to allow patients with advanced, metastatic cancer to receive the same treatment as the former president.

Carter announced in August that doctors found four small melanoma lesions on his brain. He said he would undergo treatment at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University using the drug pembroluzimab as well as radiation therapy. In early December, Carter announced that tests showed no sign of the cancer in his body.

Now, Cheokas wants to remove barriers from other patients receiving the same treatment, or any treatment a doctor recommends. His bill, called the Honorable Jimmy Carter Cancer Treatment Access Act, says insurance companies cannot mandate patients first fail to respond to other treatments before trying new programs.

The bill would only apply to health plans that cover the treatment of advanced, metastatic cancer, which typically involves Stage IV patients. Those patients, Cheokas said, “usually have very limited time left. That’s why we didn’t want the victims of cancer at that stage to pass up opportunities trying to meet insurance obligations.”

“We have the ability to touch other lives and provide that same thing throughout the state of Georgia for the people either on the State Health Benefit Plan or other insurance plans in the state,” Cheokas said.