Increased funding for biomedical research and improved patient access to clinical trials and other services are among the anticipated effects of landmark healthcare legislation signed into law in March.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, whose provisions will be phased in over several years, aims to reshape the U.S. healthcare system by providing coverage to more people, improving healthcare services, and making the healthcare delivery system more efficient.
“The reform also advocates more transparency— not only in costs, but in patient outcomes,” says Rob Davis, director of regulatory and government affairs at Fox Chase, who notes the law will require nonprofit healthcare providers like Fox Chase to begin publicly reporting patient outcomes by 2014.
“Healthcare reform is still in its infancy, and its overall ramifications are still being considered,” Davis says, “but it looks to be beneficial, overall, to cancer care.”
Among the good news: Additional grant funding will be available for research in a number of areas, including the comparative effectiveness of treatments for diseases including cancer. The law establishes a Center for Comparative Effectiveness Research in the Department of Health and Human Services that’s designed to better inform physicians’ treatment decisions by providing evidence of the effectiveness, benefits, and potential harms of various treatments. The center’s funding priorities include improving imaging technologies for diagnosing and monitoring cancer and reducing racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities in cancer care.
In addition, Davis says, more patients will have access to clinical trials. Starting in 2014, private insurers will be required to cover patients’ routine costs associated with participation in such trials. The law also makes preventive services, including some screening tests, a requirement of all insurance plans.
Cancer patients will be among those who benefit from the overall expansion in healthcare coverage provided by the reform: Insurers no longer will be permitted to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions, and lifetime spending limits will be lifted. The law is projected to reduce the number of uninsured Americans from the current 54 million to 23 million by 2020.