Senate passes bill on cervical cancer vaccine |

Senate passes bill on cervical cancer vaccine

Associated Press Writer

The Senate voted Thursday to pass a bill that would force insurance companies to provide a new cervical cancer vaccine.

Senators voted 14-7 in favor of Democrat-sponsored SB409, with Republicans casting the opposing votes. The measure now moves to the Assembly for final legislative action.

The bill’s sponsor, Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, says insurers that provide the vaccine would save money because they wouldn’t have to pay the much higher costs of treating cervical cancer.

Even though most health plans cover the benefit, Titus argues that insurers might cut it without a legislative mandate.

“This is a kind of health care that is preventative,” said Titus. “But they might decide to drop it without a mandate.”

Senate Republicans who opposed the measure argued that government mandates on insurance companies raise the cost of health insurance for all consumers.

“The real issue is the rising cost of insurance,” said Sen. Maurice Washington, R-Sparks. “Mandates cause employers to not offer health insurance.”

Sen. Warren Hardy, R-Las Vegas, said that with fewer mandates, insurance companies are more able to customize plans to suit a wide variety of customers.

Most Nevada insurers already pay for Gardasil, the vaccine manufactured by Merck & Co. that protects against human papilloma virus or HPV, a known precursor to cervical cancer. State Medicaid and Nevada Check Up plans also cover the vaccine.

The bill first passed the Republican-controlled Senate 12-9 last Friday, but Sen. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, asked for reconsideration because it would increase costs for local governments’ self-funded health plans. On Wednesday, the Senate voted to exempt those self-funded plans from the bill.

Titus said she was upset that some local governments, including Clark County, wanted to be exempt from the bill. She noted that Clark County’s insurance plan covers checks for prostate cancer, and should pay for the HPV vaccine as a matter of gender equity.

The vaccine costs about $350 for the three doses required.

It was approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration for females ages nine to 26 last June.