New Bipartisan Senate Bill Would Expand Access to Clinical Trials and Improve Quality of Cancer Research

Statement By Monica M. Bertagnolli, MD, FACS, FASCO, Chair of the Association for Clinical Oncology (ASCO)
September 30, 2020

“ASCO applauds Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) for introducing bipartisan legislation to expand access to clinical trials and improve the quality of cancer research. The CLINICAL TREATMENT Act (S. 4742) would require Medicaid to guarantee coverage of the routine care costs of clinical trial participation for Medicaid enrollees with a life-threatening condition.

Medicaid is the only major payer that is not required by the Federal government to cover routine care costs, including, for example, physician visits and laboratory studies, for clinical trial participants. Without the guarantee of coverage, many Medicaid beneficiaries with cancer and other life-threatening conditions do not have access to the latest technological and scientific advances as a treatment option.

The bipartisan legislation introduced by Senators Burr and Cardin would fix this coverage barrier and help reduce disparities in treatment outcomes, which have come into sharper focus during the COVID-19 pandemic. A large proportion of Medicaid beneficiaries are people who identify as racial and ethnic minorities that are not well represented in clinical trials, limiting the applicability of trial results. Expanding access to clinical trials covered by Medicaid would improve the validity of clinical research data and speed the availability of new treatments. This means better outcomes for all patients.

Fixing this unfair coverage gap has broad bipartisan support. The House version of this bill, H.R. 913, currently has 46 cosponsors representing both parties. We encourage Senators from every state to sign on as a cosponsor of the legislation and quickly move to advance this commonsense solution to improve research and access to care.”