95 state legislators sign letter calling on Governor Hochul to expand access to biomarker testing


The Honorable Kathy Hochul
Governor of New York State
NYS Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224

RE: Biomarker Testing

Dear Governor Hochul,

We respectfully request that you sign into law S1196a / A1673a to continue New York’s leadership in healthcare innovation and improve access to biomarker testing. This legislation is important to the health of all New Yorkers. As champions of this legislation from our respective chambers, we ask that you support it as is without any substantive changes.

Biomarker-driven care improves health outcomes, and this legislation is needed to ensure more equitable access for New Yorkers.

Biomarker testing has become a game-changing part of cancer care and determining the best treatment for other serious and life-threatening conditions, given its role in opening the door to targeted treatments that can lead to improved survivorship and quality of life. Despite the proven benefits, many insurers fail to keep pace with innovations and advancements in biomarker testing. As a result, some patients must decide whether to pay out-of-pocket or go without the testing that may connect them with lifesaving treatment or help them avoid unnecessary or ineffective treatments.

Action needed to ensure equitable access:

Many people of color, individuals with lower incomes, and rural communities are currently left behind from the latest advances in precision treatments. S1196a / A1673a can help address these disparities in access to biomarker testing.

Biomarker testing is not only revolutionizing cancer care but also the treatment of other conditions. For example, there are current applications in rheumatoid arthritis, other autoimmune diseases, organ and tissue transplant, and rare diseases, to name a few.

In May, the FDA approved a biomarker test for preeclampsia. This test allows doctors to determine which patients with preeclampsia are at the highest risk – allowing more women to avoid extended hospital stays ahead of delivery if deemed unnecessary.

The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research announced a breakthrough this spring for a Parkinson’s biomarker; that can reveal a key pathology of the disease and in the future is expected to drive treatment for neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s.

This legislation will ensure that applications will be covered in other disease areas when there is sufficient medical and scientific evidence in line with clear criteria in the legislation so that coverage keeps pace with scientific advances like the preeclampsia test just approved by the FDA.

Broad, diverse support after extensive legislative deliberation:

The legislation passed both houses of the legislature with near unanimous support. It has the support of more than sixty-five patient and provider organizations, cancer centers, and other health groups including the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, the NAACP New State Conference, ALS Association, and many more. Similar legislation expanding insurance coverage for proven biomarker testing applications across disease types has been passed and signed into law in twelve other states: Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Texas. Similar legislation is under active consideration in California, Massachusetts, and Ohio. All the enacted state laws include coverage for both cancer treatment and treatment of other diseases and chronic illnesses.

This legislation has been discussed and debated in both houses for more than a year. The sponsors have heard from public health advocates, pharmaceutical companies, biomarker test manufacturers, cancer centers, individual healthcare companies, health plan associations, and more. Advocates for the legislation have met with the New York State Department of Financial Services, the Medicaid team at the New York State Department of Health, staff from your office, and more than 150 of our colleagues in the State Legislature.

Before the passage of this legislation, both legislative houses carefully negotiated amendments that considered the questions and concerns raised by various stakeholders. The final legislation is a compromise that includes specific language suggested by the New York State Health Plan Association and agreed to by both prime sponsors and those advocating for the bill. It also has language to address concerns raised by the Senate Finance and Senate Counsel’s Offices and the Assembly Ways and Means Committee.

The New York Health Plan Association, which represents the health plans that provide coverage to over eight million New Yorkers, recently stated publicly that the compromise bill “takes a balanced approach of utilizing biomarker testing to inform the best treatment of care for patients through safe and effective testing that is supported by nationally recognized clinical guidelines.”

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network describes the bill and the compromise as “an incredibly important step toward improving access to biomarker testing and ensuring that patients get the right medicine at the right time.”

The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research says that “It is our hope that continued clinical trials and research will soon lead to additional biomarker testing breakthroughs that will improve treatments for those living with Parkinson’s disease. This legislation will ensure that Parkinson’s patients get the most beneficial treatment for their disease.”

We ask that you join us in supporting this legislation as is without any substantive changes. Precision medicine is changing the way we treat diseases and chronic illnesses, and biomarker testing is the key to opening the door to the types of personalized treatments that can improve survival rates and quality of life. By signing into law S1196a / A1673a you can ensure that New York State remains a national leader in healthcare access and innovation.

We hope to stand by your side this fall when you sign this important bill into law.