La. Medicaid paying for new services for those fighting cancer - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

La. Medicaid paying for new services for those fighting cancer

News Release from Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) announced it is paying for two new services for Louisiana Medicaid recipients battling cancer to help improve health outcomes.

As of July 1, 2014, Louisiana's Medicaid program began reimbursing for a genetic screening called Oncotype DX Breast Cancer Assay for Louisiana women diagnosed with early-stage invasive breast cancer and custom-fit compression garments for individuals who have undergone certain cancer treatments and are now experiencing the swelling symptoms caused by lymphedema.

"Facing cancer can be one of the toughest battles any of us will ever fight, which is why it is so important that the care and services we provide through Louisiana's Medicaid program give our loved ones the best opportunity to win that fight," said DHH Secretary Kathy Kliebert. "By offering women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer the Oncotype DX screening their doctors will have more information to best tailor their treatment. Additionally, the new coverage for custom-fit compression garments to help treat the swelling caused by lymphedema will help recovering cancer patients return to their lives faster and more comfortably. I am so proud of the work done by our Medicaid staff in making these treatments possible and grateful to the leadership Sen. Broome showed in passing legislation to make today's announcement possible."

"Each year when we gather at the State Capitol to pass legislation, we hope that our work makes real, lasting improvements for Louisiana residents. While we ultimately didn't need to pass legislation on this issue, my bill kicked off a dialog that helped make these changes in our Medicaid program possible," said Louisiana Sen. Sharon Weston Broome. "Partnering with DHH, the doctors who treat our loved ones and the brave men and women who battle cancer during this process was an honor. Every one of us should have the best opportunity to fight cancer should we ever be faced with that diagnosis; the Oncotype screening and custom lymphedema garments help do just that."

Medicaid will now cover Oncotype DX, a genetic screening that evaluates whether a patient with certain types of early-stage, invasive breast cancer would benefit from chemotherapy. Chemotherapy can be a painful, invasive and often expensive form of cancer treatment. Doctors can then use the screening to determine whether or not it will help when prescribing chemo. Evidence indicates that information provided by the screening changes treatment decisions made by doctors 37 percent of the time, meaning that over a third of women experiencing this type of cancer can now receive better care as a result of the screening's availability.

Custom-fit compression garments and other supplies, such as compression pumps, are also now covered by Louisiana's Medicaid program in order to help mitigate the symptoms of individuals experiencing lymphedema. Lymphedema is a condition that can cause severe swelling and is commonly experienced by those who have undergone certain cancer treatments, with 30 to 40 percent of those that have had breast cancer experiencing the disease. Both treatment options are available to Medicaid recipients at no cost.

"As our region's first accredited cancer center, Baton Rouge General treats thousands of cancer patients in our area each year and is dedicated to ensuring our community has access to the highest quality cancer care and leading edge clinical trials. We are fortunate to be among an amazing community of world-class healthcare providers and proud to be Louisiana's only certified lymphedema treatment program recognized by the National Lymphedema Network and the state's first NAPBC-accredited comprehensive breast center," said Dr. William Russell, Medical Director of Radiation Oncology for Baton Rouge General's Pennington Cancer Center. "These enhanced cancer services will provide important treatment options and supportive services that will help to improve care quality and outcomes for our patients."

"These expanded services are a one-two punch in the battle against cancer in Louisiana," said Medicaid Director Ruth Kennedy. "They show how expanding the types of services doctors are able to choose for their patients can create better long-term outcomes and cost-savings to the program. The new screening will help doctors plan the best possible treatment for their patients, and the new coverage for lymphedema supplies will help patients suffering from the disease to recover from cancer treatment in greater comfort and with fewer residual ailments."

DHH considers the newly available treatment options part of its expanding effort to give Medicaid recipient individualized care guided by doctors who are being supplied with a growing set of evidence-based options when considering which treatment plans are best.

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