Statement By Monica M. Bertagnolli, MD, FACS, FASCO, Chair of the Association for Clinical Oncology (ASCO)
“Congress took a giant step forward to reduce health disparities by expanding clinical trial access to more than 41.6 million Medicaid beneficiaries through passage of the bipartisan CLINICAL TREATMENT Act as part of its end-of-year legislative package. We commend Congress for passing this commonsense fix to increase the diversity of participants in clinical trials, improve the validity of clinical research, and help reduce disparities in treatment outcomes for people with life-threatening diseases—disparities that have only been magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unlike Medicare and all other major payers, Medicaid has not been required to cover the routine clinical care costs, like lab tests and doctor visits, associated with participation in a clinical trial. This has meant that millions of patients with Medicaid coverage have not been able to participate in trials that often provide the best – and sometimes only – treatment option for their disease.
Medicaid also serves a large portion of individuals from racial and ethnic minority groups who are not well-represented in clinical trials. The legislation passed by Congress will remove barriers to their representation, which will improve the validity of clinical research data and better demonstrate the safety and effectiveness of new treatments for all segments of our population, resulting in more evidence-based care for all patients.
ASCO has been actively advocating for passage of the CLINICAL TREATMENT Act for more than two years and led a broad coalition of more than 100 organizations representing patients, providers, medical researchers, survivors, and families in supporting this important legislation. We look forward to working with Congress, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, state regulators, and other stakeholders to ensure a smooth implementation of the CLINICAL TREATMENT Act, as well as other legislative and regulatory solutions to improve equity in health care and research.
Since its founding more than 50 years ago, ASCO has been committed to advancing health equity in cancer care. Today, that commitment is even stronger as we strive to ensure that all individuals with cancer, regardless of race, ethnicity, age, geographic location, or socioeconomic status, benefit from research advances. The CLINICAL TREATMENT Act demonstrates that barriers to equitable cancer care and research are not insurmountable.
We congratulate bill sponsors Representatives Ben Ray Luján (D-NM-03) and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL-12) and Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) on their successful bipartisan, bicameral legislative victory. We are grateful for their stellar leadership and commitment to ensuring fair access to clinical trials for all patients.”
The Association for Clinical Oncology is a 501 (c)(6) organization that represents nearly 45,000 oncology professionals who care for people living with cancer. Established by the American Society of Clinical Oncology in 2019, the Association works to ensure that all individuals with cancer have access to high-quality, affordable care; that the cancer care delivery system supports optimal cancer care; and that our nation supports robust federal funding for research on the prevention, screening, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer. Learn more at www.ascoassociation.org and follow us on Twitter at @ASCO.