We know that insured patients with coverage for clinical trial participation have faced denials and delays, ... a situation that is unacceptable when clinical trials of new therapies may represent their best hope for extension of life or a better quality of life.
—Clifford A. Hudis, MD, FACP
ASCO has joined more than 50 other organizations in urging the Administration to issue regulations or guidance before January 2014 to ensure health plans implement an important provision of the Affordable Care Act that would remove a critical obstacle to patients interested in participating in research.
In a jointly signed letter to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Labor, ASCO and the other organizations called for clear federal guidance on coverage of routine medical costs for individuals participating in approved clinical trials, as required under section 2709 of the Public Health Service Act—a provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that goes into effect on January 1, 2014.
Need for Uniform Coverage Nationwide
A recent HHS and DOL announcement effectively leaves the implementation details of this provision up to the individual states, which is likely to produce a patchwork of uneven and unpredictable coverage that will confuse patients and their health-care providers and impact timely access to potentially life-extending research. According to the co-signed letter, “Implementation of this provision will be very uneven across the country and many consumers may be denied a new protection they should be guaranteed under the law.”
“While the Administration has made it clear that insurance companies must proceed with compliance, it has left important details unaddressed,” said ASCO President Clifford A. Hudis, MD, FACP. “We know that insured patients with coverage for clinical trial participation have faced denials and delays even in those states that require such coverage, a situation that is unacceptable to patients for whom clinical trials of new therapies may represent their best hope for extension of life or a better quality of life. This also unnecessarily delays the development of better treatments for everyone.”
The letter builds on ASCO’s earlier advocacy efforts with 18 cancer organizations that resulted in submission of recommendations to federal agencies on how to implement the coverage requirement. ASCO is also developing detailed information on the new law for cancer patients, investigators, and research staff and will be closely tracking implementation of the law.
Four Key Issues
ASCO and the other organizations signing the letter identified four key issues that should be addressed through federal rulemaking to ensure that the clinical trials provision of the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented: