Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — State Rep. Curry Todd has decided to go public about being diagnosed with cancer.
The Collierville Republican informed colleagues about his condition during a House Commerce Committee hearing Tuesday on a proposal to require insurance companies to pay for oral chemotherapy treatments.
The bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Glen Casada of Franklin is opposed by Gov. Bill Haslam and the insurance industry on the basis that it creates a government mandate.
"How many have you walked into the doctor's office and he's told you you've got cancer?" Todd said. "This is a subject that's close to my heart, period."
Todd later told reporters that he was diagnosed more than four years ago with macroglobulinemia, a form of slow growing non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
"It was not to get any type of sympathy from anyone," Todd said. "We had all the cancer folks in the audience, and I felt I had to make a statement."
Todd said he has not yet undergone any treatment, and that he is in the first of four stages of the disease. He said he plans to run for re-election this year.
Todd was arrested last year on drunken driving and gun charges. His case has been bound over to a grand jury.
Casada's bill would require any insurer providing coverage for intravenous chemotherapy to extend the same benefits for oral treatments.
Sammie Arnold, a lobbyist for the Haslam administration, told the panel the governor believes this is an insurance mandate.
"The governor just fundamentally believes that the best way to work these things out is through competition between businesses in the marketplace, and not through government intervention," he said.
Arnold's statements about the governor's position drew an angry response from Todd.
"I hope and pray he doesn't have anybody in his family that has cancer, because I'm opposed to what you just said," Todd said. "This is not a mandate, it's giving people equal treatment to get a drug that other folks haven't gotten.
"You send that message back to him — or I will," he said.
Supporters noted that more than a dozen other states have passed similar measures without opposition from the industry.
An effort to defer the bill until next year failed on a 13-13 vote. A committee vote on the bill was re-scheduled until next week. Meanwhile, the companion bill is awaiting a full Senate vote.
Read HB1087 at http://capitol.tn.gov