Expert Notes Positive Trend Toward Improving Health Equity in Cancer Care


Robert A. Winn, MD, gives insight into how institutions and community practices can improve access to cancer care.

Initiatives such as Medicaid paying for clinical trials and reimbursement policies from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services may be “game changers” for moving towards health equity in oncology, according to Robert A. Winn, MD.

Winn, director and Lipman Chair in Oncology at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Massey Comprehensive Cancer Center, senior associate for Cancer Innovation, and professor of Pulmonary Disease and Critical Cancer Medicine at VCU School of Medicine, spoke about the trends in oncology he is seeing and what clinicians can do to bring equity to their institutions and community centers.

He noted that there is still work to be done all around for everyone to have access to the latest cancer care, including progress in biomarker testing for patients with lung cancer and other disease types. As a whole, however, he suggested that the community is heading in the right direction.


Several things on the horizon may be game changers for improving and moving towards equity. For example, the fact that at some point, we allowed Medicaid to pay for clinical trials. This new ruling by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services [CMS] to allow for the reimbursements of navigation, i.e. getting people to navigate you from point A to point B, will also aid and assist us in getting towards a more equitable society in the context of oncology. There’s still work to do. We will always talk about when new drugs come out. There is usually a sort of non-intentional divide. For example, when immunotherapy came out, we wrote about this in the New York Times and everywhere else about the immunotherapy divide. New therapies, new technologies, and new screening mechanisms usually don’t tend to reach all communities equitably. That’s still a struggle. We are making some good progress, but we need to make more progress in the area of biomarker testing, for example, in lung cancer and all these other [cancers]. With the reimbursements of the CMS, Medicaid paying for clinical trials, and many other things that we could talk about, we are trending towards the health equity goal. We’re not there yet.


CMS finalizes physician payment rule that advances health equity. News release. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. November 2, 2023. Accessed February 19, 2024.

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