By Jane Nelson, Executive Director, Oklahoma Nurses Association
As nurses, we care for patients from cradle to grave – patients from all walks of life and in every type of care setting. We see patients all across Oklahoma struggle with insurance companies, and we see first-hand the hardships it creates for patients. Patients should be able to spend what little energy they have fighting their disease, especially those fighting time-sensitive diseases like cancer.
Proton therapy is a type of radiation treatment that precisely treats cancerous tissues, leaving the surrounding healthy tissues unharmed and significantly lowering the risk for short- and long-term side effects. Oklahomans are lucky to have this treatment that brings several hundred patients from across the country and around the world available to us in our home state.
Unfortunately, many Oklahoma cancer patients are facing multiple rounds of insurance coverage denials because insurance companies that previously covered proton therapy are now requiring higher levels of testing – more than what is required for coverage for any other radiation option available.
Nurses take the Nightingale Oath. Much like the Hippocratic Oath, we promise to uphold the highest standards of the nursing profession and always do what is right for the patient. We have seen the struggles patients go through with cancer treatment from unrelenting pain to secondary tumors. Proton therapy is more targeted, and may better preserve the patient’s quality of life and do less harm while still treating their cancer effectively and efficiently.
We believe Oklahomans should be able to receive coverage for the treatments they and their doctor decide are the best treatment plan for their specific case. Patients with cancer do not have the luxury of time to fight with insurance companies to get their recommended treatments covered. It is their life and their cancer – they should control the level of care they receive, not a third-party who has never met them or conducted an in-person examination.
House Bill 1515 unanimously passed through the Oklahoma House of Representatives earlier this month and is now in the hands of our Senate. The goal of this bill is to help Oklahoma cancer patients receive the radiation treatments necessary for their recovery and long-term health as recommended by their doctor. This bill would mean Oklahoma doctors, not insurance companies, would make treatment decisions with their patients.
The Oklahoma Nurses Association respectfully asks our state lawmakers to listen us – their constituents and registered nurses from all across the state – who are taking a stand for a higher standard of care for our patients.
We urge our fellow Oklahomans to join us in supporting the bill to help Oklahoma cancer patients receive insurance coverage for the treatments needed for their recovery and long-term health. It is time to contact your state senator, and ask them to give House Bill 1515 a fair hearing and vote in favor of the bill.