March 13, 2023

Cortez Masto Cosponsors Bipartisan Legislation to Provide Patients with Safe, Timely Access to Treatment

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) cosponsored the bipartisan Safe Step Act led by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) and Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.). This legislation amends the ‘step therapy’ process to provide patients with transparent and timely access to prescription medications and treatments.

‘Step therapy,’ also known as ‘fail first,’ is a common protocol that requires patients to try and fail with lower-cost medications that are preferred by insurers before moving onto the drug originally prescribed by their physician. Although this process attempts to control health care costs, it can be harmful, as it requires patients to use medications even when their doctor is certain that the initial treatment will not work.

“Nevadans should not have to go to great lengths to get their health insurance to approve access the medication that works for them, that is why I’m proud to join this bipartisan legislation to remove unnecessary barriers keeping patients from the care they need,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “It’s past time we streamlined the complicated ‘step therapy’ process and got rid of unnecessary delays that threaten the health of Nevadans and patients nationwide.”

Specifically, the Safe Step Act would amend the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) to require group health plans to implement a clear, transparent, and timely process for a patient or physician to request an exception to a step therapy protocol. The legislation outlines 5 exceptions to fail first protocols, including the following:

  • The patient already tried and failed on the required drug
  • Delayed treatment will cause irreversible consequences
  • The required drug will cause harm to the patient
  • The required drug will prevent a patient from working or fulfilling Activities of Daily Living
  • The patient is stable on their current medication

Senator Cortez Masto has been a champion of affordable, quality health care. She has cosponsored legislation to make health care more affordable by giving Medicare  the power to negotiate drug prices, capping drug costs, and expanding ACA subsidies through the American Rescue Plan. Senator Cortez Masto also helped protect millions of unemployed and furloughed workers from losing their health insurance in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.