The American Society of Clinical Oncology
(ASCO) applauded patient protection legislation passed recently in
the US House of Representatives that would provide much-needed
improvements in cancer patients access to high-quality care and
treatment, including therapies offered in clinical trials. The
Bipartisan Consensus Managed Care Improvement Act (HR 2723),
introduced by Representatives Charlie Norwood (R-GA) and John Dingell
(D- MI), passed by a vote of 275 to 151.
This bill addresses a serious gap in existing insurance
coverage. By guaranteeing cancer patients coverage of routine patient
care costs in clinical trials, it will improve access to
state-of-the-art cancer care, said ASCO President Joseph S.
Bailes, MD. Representatives Norwood and Dingell, as well as
Representative Brian Bilbray (R-CA), deserve praise for their
bipartisan commitment to improving cancer care and research and to
passing a strong patient protection bill. Representatives Rick Lazio
(R-NY) and Malt Salmon (R-AZ) also worked hard to ensure that
clinical trials coverage was a provision of the House-passed
patients bill of rights.
The cancer community and ASCO fully support three provisions included
in the patient protection bill:
Coverage for Patient Participation in Clinical TrialsThe
bill guarantees coverage of routine patient care costs for patients
enrolled in all clinical trials sponsored by the National Institutes
of Health, the Veterans Administration, and the Department of
Defense. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)sponsored trials are
not covered in the legislation, although ASCO supports efforts to
extend this provision to FDA-sponsored trials during upcoming
conference negotiations on the bill with the Senate.
Access to Specialty CareThe bill provides cancer
patients direct access to oncologists, allowing these specialists to
serve as primary care physicians for their patients.
Continuity of CareThe bill allows patients to remain
with their current physician for a specified period if their
insurance provider discontinues coverage of that physician.
Currently, cancer patients treatment can be interrupted and
seriously jeopardized if their oncologist is dropped from their