TRICARE, the health plan for active duty military personnel (formerly known as CHAMPUS), expanded its cancer clinical trials demonstration so that beneficiaries could enter cancer prevention trials sponsored by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The demonstration had previously been limited to cancer treatment trials. The expansion, effective in June, was somewhat of a last-ditch effort to entice more TRICARE beneficiaries into the demonstration so that TRICARE could obtain more data on which to base future decisions. Between January 1996 and August 1998, only 155 TRICARE beneficiaries enrolled in NCI trials, and those were almost exclusively for bone marrow transplants.
Of course, TRICARE has a much better record on covering patient costs of participating in cancer clinical trials than almost any other health plan. Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) and Connie Mack (R-Fla.) have been trying for years to persuade Congress to pass a bill authorizing a Medicare demonstration that would ensure coverage of patient care costs. No bill has ever gotten out of a Senate committee.