Haslam vetoes proton therapy bill (Updated)

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam on Thursday vetoed a bill to require the state employee health insurance program to cover hypofractionated proton therapy, an alternative cancer treatment.

The measure sponsored by Sen. Mark Green (R-Ashland City) and Rep. Bob Ramsey (R-Maryville) cleared the Senate on a 29-1 vote and the House by 82-13. Haslam said in his veto message that the bill circumvented the state’s established process for deciding insurance coverage for state employees.

The release from Gov. Bill Haslam’s office:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today released the following statement regarding SB 367:

“Today, I vetoed Senate Bill 367, a bill that circumvents the established process for determining state employee insurance program coverage based on medical evidence and effectiveness. The state plan currently covers many forms of radiation treatment, and the provider advocating this bill rejected a medically appropriate plan for expanded coverage to instead pursue a political mandate. The state is committed to high-quality care that is medically appropriate and fiscally responsible for patients and taxpayers, but this mandate could put patients at risk and expose them to excessive charges from out-of-network providers.”

UPDATE: Sen. Mark Green (R-Ashland City) predictably wants a veto-override session:

“Let’s remember where this begins: A physician and patient. The physician makes a recommendation for what he thinks or she thinks is best for the patient. Next, the patient decides they want that. But then, the insurance companies step in,” Green said in a release. “Unfortunately, the Governor has chosen to side with the insurance companies and their vendors — ignoring what physicians and the patient have decided is best.”

UPDATE No. 2: Not so fast, say Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) and House Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) in a joint statement:

“While it is the prerogative of the legislature to call for a special session at any time, we believe it would be premature at this point. The 110th General Assembly’s final bills are still being enrolled, signed and sent to the governor. The most prudent course is to wait for gubernatorial action on all legislation passed this session. Only then can we reasonably assess the need for a special session.”

UPDATE No. 3: Republican gubernatorial candidate Diane Black, no stranger to supplying guidance to what should and should not occur at the state Capitol, wants Haslam to sign an unrelated bill sponsored by Green addressing sanctuary cities.

“Sanctuary cities have no place in our state, and Governor Haslam should sign the anti-sanctuary cities legislation passed by the General Assembly – the duly elected representatives of the people of Tennessee. It is a common-sense bill that supports law enforcement and prohibits local governments from rewarding illegal immigration. It needs to become a common-sense law.”


14 Responses to Haslam vetoes proton therapy bill (Updated)

  • Leslie Parsley says:

    Good for Haslam.

    • bob timmerman says:

      Leslie, my best friend is a General Sessions Judge in east TN, and his doctor had recommended the proton therapy option to treat his prostate cancer. Blue Cross Blue Shield refuses to pay for the treatment, and he contacted his state rep to find out the status on this bill, only to find that Haslam had vetoed the measure overwhelmingly passed by both houses of the General Assembly.

      To someone who is waiting for cancer treatment, this isn’t great news.

  • Henry Walker says:

    Some background and context would be helpful. What is proton therapy? Who sponsored the bill ? Who lobbied for it? Did the administration flag it ?

  • Bob Miles says:

    How many people will die from cancer that this would have saved or helped them?

  • JudyR says:

    It only affects the health coverage for state employees

  • Bob Strong says:

    Haslam has no conscience. He has all the money he will ever need and doesn’t care about regular folks. I’ll bet Pilot rank and file employees get no insurance, unless they’re management. PUTZ!

  • Cannoneer2 says:

    This idea was floated to benefit a new cancer treatment center in Franklin. Crony Capitalism.

    • Misty Pardner says:

      You hit the nail on the head. There is only one treatment center in Tennessee and this would have been a lottery win for them.

      • Bob Fischer says:

        Not exactly. There is a proton therapy center in Knoxville. When appropriate, it has been shown to be very effective. Whether or not it is in the state’s network has no bearing on whether or not it is the appropriate treatment.

        • Cannoneer2 says:

          The Franklin center is owned by the same people that own the Knoxville center. See the Nashville Business Journal article for details. It’s still crony capitalism. You’d think an Army officer and West Point grad would immediately recognize this whole affair as dishonorable. By the way, where are the whiners who would complain that state employees would have a benefit many others in private industry don’t have? Does their opinion change when a handout to business is involved?

  • James White says:

    Mark Green and Crony Capitalism. Yep.

  • James White says:

    PLEASE No special veto override session.

  • Diane says:

    James White, when you get prostrate cancer I’d like to see if you would do traditional therapy that will fry your gonads or opt for Proton Therapy which will spare them. Traditional radiation can also cause other forms of cancer. This is an expensive technology that has tremendous benefits. I pay over $17,000 for commercial insurance and have a $5,000 deductible. Now I have a cancer diagnosis and Proton Therapy would spare my heart and lungs from additional radiation exposure. It is known that women with left breast cancer develop heart issues after traditional radiation therapy. Cancer is an evil disease and God forbid that you or a family member receive that diagnosis. Your life will be forever changed. Statistics now say one in three will experience some form of cancer in their lifetime. Are you going to be that person. The odds aren’t in your favor. Forget capitalism this is about human life! So when you or your family member is confronted with this diagnosis what will you choose?

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