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Walker thinks chemotherapy bill has a shot at passing Legislature

Chuck Quirmbach

Wisconsin Public Radio

Gov. Scott Walker predicts legislation to help cancer patients afford to buy chemotherapy pills might reach his desk this spring. Two fellow Republicans who control the Legislature, though, appear to want to swallow the bill.

As of Monday night, state Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Burlington, hadn't allowed the oral chemotherapy bill to be scheduled for what appears to be the Assembly's last week in session this spring. Last week, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, (R-Juneau), crafted an unusual procedural move to halt the bill in his chamber, as his brother Jeff lobbies against the measure on behalf of an HMO trade group. 

Late Monday, though, Walker told reporters the bill might not be dead.

“Just look at the number of sponsors that you have, both in the Republican caucus and the Democrat caucus,” Walker said. “I would not be surprised if it ultimately got a vote and ended up on our desk.”

Newspaper stories have indicated about 60 percent of state representatives and 80 percent of senators support the bill, which would make health insurance firms offer the same coverage for chemotherapy pills as the companies do for chemo drugs administered through an IV. 

As the bill languishes, critics are turning up the heat, including on Fitzgerald. Milwaukee Common Council President Michael Murphy called out the senator on Monday in a speech also blasting a bill curtailing early voting.

“Senator, if you're really looking at legislation to deal with equal and fair, start with chemotherapy drugs,” Murphy said. “Make sure that's it's equal and fair that treatment for people who are suffering from cancer, get the same deal as people are in the hospital, versus taking oral medicine at home.”

Democratic candidate for governor Mary Burke also backs the oral chemotherapy bill.