House passes ‘Jimmy Carter’ bill to help Georgia cancer patients

More cancer patients in Georgia would be able to receive the same treatment that former President Jimmy Carter says eliminated signs of his disease, under a bill passed unanimously Monday by the state House.

State Rep. Mike Cheokas, R-Americus, counts Carter as a constituent and said former president's cancer battle inspired him to help others get access to the same drugs that helped Carter.

House Bill 965 — which Cheokas has dubbed the "Honorable Jimmy Carter Cancer Treatment Access Act" — says any insurance company that offers health care plans in Georgia cannot force patients first fail to respond to other treatments before trying other programs. The bill would only apply to health plans that cover the treatment of advanced, metastatic cancer, which typically involves Stage IV patients.

“We want all the citizens of Georgia to receive the same benefits,” Cheokas said.

Carter announced in August that doctors found four small melanoma lesions on his brain, and that 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.

HB 965 now goes to the state Senate for consideration.