Georgia House public health chair pushes for early cancer detection and biomarker testing

Jaymie Knox didn’t even know what a biomarker test was until it was done as part of a biopsy of her lung.

But after helping identify the type of cancer she has and the exact treatment she needs to keep it at bay, she wants everyone who would benefit from this diagnostic test to get it.

“I didn’t know that was a thing,” Knox said in an interview. “When you hear ‘cancer,’ you automatically think of chemo and radiation. Little do you know there are all these different, new, innovative treatments and ways of working with that that weren’t there before.”

“It was just done,” she said of the biomarker tests. “And I was really, really grateful for that.”

The 36-year-old Savannah resident remains active. She trains daily — and has taken 300 high-intensity cardio classes at a local gym — and works as a service manager in the facilities business while running her own media company, WJMS media.

Knox was living in New York when she was first diagnosed with lung cancer in 2018, and she received the biomarker test at a university medical center there.

Now she is part of a campaign to demand that health insurance plans cover comprehensive biomarker testing for Georgians who may not have access to it today. She recently traveled to Atlanta to advocate for a bill sponsored by Republican Marietta State Rep. Sharon Cooper, who chairs the House Public Health Committee.

(READ MORE: ‘Extraordinary’: Chattanooga doctors remove rare 34-pound tumor)

Four other states – Arizona, Illinois, Louisiana and Rhode Island – have adopted similar measures. Georgia is one of 17 states where legislation expanding access to biomarker testing is expected this year, according to the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

“If I hadn’t tested the biomarkers myself, I wouldn’t be here today,” Knox said. She said her plea was to “make sure people have the same chance as me of surviving and getting cancer and saying no, that’s not going to be the end of my story”.

Cooper’s bill has already authorized the House Insurance Committee during this year’s slow-paced legislative session, and it has the support of a coalition that includes nearly four dozen organizations. He has until March 6 to clear the entire chamber for the best chance of becoming law this year.

The longtime lawmaker says her bill would alleviate patient suffering and save valuable time and money if ineffective or unnecessary treatments are avoided. The test is also used when diagnosing autoimmune diseases.

(READ MORE: Secrecy in Georgia’s medical cannabis regulations still hampers efforts to provide relief to patients)

Supporters say access to biomarker testing is uneven in Georgia.

“A lot of places in the state do that,” Cooper told a House panel recently. “Our Medicaid system already does this. But carriers in Georgia – about 54% of them – were using it. All Georgians have – not allowed – but should benefit from this new and innovative approach to getting the right medicine. to the right person.”

Cooper rejected amendments proposed by a lobbyist who represents state commercial health insurers that would have limited the bill to cancer diagnoses and situations where testing was deemed medically necessary.

“Our concern is that this broadly drafted bill opens the door for things that are not supported by medical or clinical evidence to be performed on a patient?” said Jesse Weathington, president and CEO of the Georgia Association of Health Plans. “We want the right person to get the right care at the right time. We probably disagree on exactly how it should be.”

The bill specifies that tests should be covered when supported by medical and scientific evidence, such as nationally recognized clinical practice guidelines.

Cooper argues that doctors won’t use the tests “willy-nilly” and that biomarker tests may soon prove useful in the treatment of other conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

(READ MORE: Georgians with market insurance are not guaranteed good access to care)

She said the decision should not be left to insurers as to whether tests should be covered.

“I know how insurance companies work, and I think putting the word necessity in there gives them more leeway to make denials,” Cooper said.

Proponents say requiring strong biomarker testing coverage could increase monthly premiums by as little as 8 cents or as much as 51 cents per person, according to an analysis commissioned by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

The projected increase doesn’t take into account potential savings from more efficient care, said Julie Vojtech, the nonprofit’s Georgia government relations director.

“That’s such a small increase. Who wouldn’t pay 50 cents more a month on your premiums if it could bring back the person you love?” she says. “If I could get my father, my best friend, back for only 50 cents a month, who wouldn’t do that? »

Learn more at

Georgia House public health chair pushes for early cancer detection and biomarker testing

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to top