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October 7, 1999

  Contact: Laura Livingston, 703-299-1012


The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) today applauded patient protection legislation passed in the House 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 (H.R. 2723), introduced by Reps. Charlie Norwood (R-GA) and John Dingell (D-MI), passed yesterday by a 275-151 vote.

"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."

ASCO and the cancer community fully support three provisions included in the patient protection bill:

  • Coverage for patient participation in clinical trials – The 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. 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 care – The bill provides cancer patients direct access to oncologists, allowing these specialists to serve as primary care physicians for their patients.
  • Continuity of care – The 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.

ASCO also appreciates the efforts by Representatives Rick Lazio (R-NY) and Matt Salmon (R-AZ) to help raise awareness of the importance of clinical trials coverage.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology represents 13,000 physicians who specialize in cancer treatment and clinical research. ASCO's members set the standard for patient care worldwide, and lead the fight for more effective cancer treatments, increased funding for clinical and translational research, and, ultimately, cures for the myriad different cancers which strike 1.2 million Americans every year.

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