Panel OKs combined cancer bill

CARSON CITY — A bill requiring most insurance providers to make a cervical cancer vaccine available to young women was approved by an Assembly panel Wednesday after it was combined with a separate measure mandating coverage for prostate cancer screenings.

Senate Bill 113, mandating the prostate screenings, and Senate Bill 409, mandating the cervical vaccine availability, passed the Assembly Commerce and Labor Committee with three “no” votes.

The new combined bill also restores the mandate that self-funded health plans, such as those offered by Clark County and the city of Las Vegas, would have to offer the vaccine.

The provision mandating that these plans offer the cervical vaccine was taken out of the measure in the Senate after some local government groups objected, including Clark County.

Clark County had estimated the cost of providing the vaccine, which requires three shots at $120 each, at $215,000. Clark County officials said the members of the plan were the ones who decide what coverages to offer.

But the prostate screening mandate did include these government health insurance plans, causing some lawmakers to question why the two health issues were being treated differently.

If approved by the full Assembly, the combined measure would then return to the Senate for its consideration.

Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, made the motion to combine the two measures.

“It’s just not right to say we’re going to support men’s cancer and not women’s cancer (prevention),” she said. “I think we should put them together in one bill and stand up for men’s health and women’s health.”

Assembly Minority Leader Garn Mabey, R-Las Vegas, a physician, said he would vote against both measures. Mabey said a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine raised questions about the efficacy of the vaccine. The Legislature should wait another session until more information becomes available, he said.

Mabey said that if he could not vote for the cervical vaccine mandate, he would not vote for the prostate screening mandate either.

But Buckley said these were mandates for prevention.

“If you weigh the cost of having the protections against these cancers versus the cost of treating these cancers — and what that does to our health care delivery system and costs to businesses — it’s night and day,” she said.

Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, sought the cervical vaccine coverage. Insurance companies must provide the vaccine, but there is no mandate that young women be vaccinated. The intent is to make the vaccine more affordable and accessible.

The measure requires health insurance companies, including Nevada Check-Up and Medicaid, to make the vaccine, called Gardasil, available to females ages 9 to 26. Funding for the vaccine is included in the budgets for Medicaid and Nevada Check-up, health plans for the working poor and the uninsured.

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