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 health plan.