CLINICAL TRIALS: Bills Proposed For Insurance Coverage
Two bills before Congress "would force insurance companies to cover patients in clinical trials." The New York Daily News reports that Medicare and many HMOs "often refuse to cover such costs as hospitalization and lab fees for patients in experimental programs," a practice that is making it more difficult to find enough patients for the studies and "forc[ing] desperate patients to drop out, unless they can cover charges that sometimes run $600 to $2,000 a day, and $20,000 to $50,000 over the course of the treatment." Dr. Otis Brawley, assistant director of the National Cancer Institute, said the insurance problems "compound the difficulty of getting patients and their doctors to participate. And that could mean slowing the process of finding out how well a new drug works." "It's a problem of major concern to the American Cancer Society," said Dr. Lamar McGinnis, a medical consultant to the society.
Sen. Connie Mack (R-FL), cosponsor of a bill that would allow Medicare patients to participate in clinical trials, called "tumor-eradicating experiments on mice with angiostatin and endostatin the 'most promising cancer treatments we have ever seen.'" A separate bill, introduced by Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Tom Daschle (D-SD), "would force insurance companies to cover patients in clinical trials." Although the Clinton administration supports both bills, White House health policy advisor Chris Jennings said, "It's going to be very difficult to pass either of them." The Daily News notes that the insurance industry "opposes both bills" (Goldschlag/Kiely, 5/8).