You’ve got cancer. You’re already sick as a dog, and you need radiation treatment. So what does the State of Minnesota do? It makes you travel across town to get treatment, when you could have had your chemotherapy and radiation at the same place. During this session, the Minnesota Legislature may help cancer patients by undoing that requirement–or delay their hope by extending a bad law.
Right now, the state forbids the construction of any new facilities for radiation therapy within a 14-county area, including the Twin Cities.* Not just “makes it difficult,” but forbids. (Imagine if the state forbid Cub Foods or Byerly’s from building new grocery stores.) The ban imposes a medically unnecessary burden on people already suffering from cancers and treatments thereof. (See for example, this story from 2009 about a Woodbury man.)
But there’s some hope: HF 595, which would end the moratorium, has has 23 sponsors in the House, including Speaker Kurt Zellers (R-Maple Grove) and Majority Leader Matt Dean (R-Dellwood). Two of the House sponsors are DFLers: Rep. Thomas Huntley of Duluth and and Rep. Nora Slawik of Maplewood. When the issue was debated in 2009, Huntley commented, “It’s a fight between two good groups of radiation oncologists, both of them do a good job, but one of them wants to keep the other out of the business.” The Senate bill has two DFL sponsors, including Sen. Linda Scheid (DFL-Brooklyn Park), who long ago recognized that lawmakers should not arbitrarily interfere with the doctor-patient relationship.
Unfortunately for patients, a number of Legislators don’t agree, and have offered up competing legislation. HF 383 would extend today’s moratorium (already extended, now until August 1, 2014) until 2017. Of the 35 House sponsors, 19 are Republicans. The companion measure, SF248, has five sponsors: Senate President Michelle L. Fischbach (R-Paynesville), Sen. Julie A. Rosen (R-Fairmont), Sean R. Nienow (R-Cambridge), single-payer advocate Sen. John Marty (DFL-Duluth) and Sen. Linda Berglin (DFL-Minneapolis), who has long advocated a moratorium.
If the number of sponsors is any indication of the fate of these two bills, cancer patients aren’t going to get any relief from the Minnesota Legislature any time soon.
* The affected counties are: Hennepin, Ramsey, Dakota, Washington, Anoka, Carver, Scott, St. Louis, Sherburne, Benton, Stearns, Chisago, Isanti, and Wright.