Governor Haslam issues rare veto on proton therapy bill

Local News

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam issued a rare veto on a bill relating to proton therapy he says did not undergo normal processes for determining insurance coverage based on medical evidence and effectiveness. 

Senate Bill 367, would’ve required health insurance coverage to cover hypofractionated proton therapy in the same manner as it covers intensity modulated radiation therapy under certain conditions. Haslam raised concerns with process of determining coverage based on evidence and effectiveness. 

“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, Gov. Haslam said in a statement. 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.”

The bill was approved in the House 82-13 vote and 29-1 in the senate. It was only Haslam’s fifth veto since taking office 2010. 

State Representative Bob Ramsey is a sponsor of the bill.

“In measuring his objection to it over the last few years it doesn’t really surprise me,” said Ramsey.

Tom Welch is the president of Provision Proton Therapy Center. He says insurance companies are part of the reason the bill was vetoed. 

“Our thought is, the bill basically by covering more people, allowed the cancer patient and their physician to determine what was best for the patient, now by vetoing the bill, that power went back to the insurance company who has a conflict of interest at covering newer technology,” said Welch. 

Ramsey says this veto isn’t the end for the bill. 

“We’re going to see if there are anymore bills that he decides to veto this year and then it seems to be the will of both bodies  that we have a special session called as a veto override session,” said Ramsey.

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