Democrats Push for Better Patient Access to Genetic Testing

Democrats Push for Better Patient Access to Genetic Testing
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Fifteen Democrats in Congress are seizing on momentum in the field of precision medicine, penning a letter Tuesday to Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price urging increased patient access to genetic testing.

The letter was sent on the same day the Personalized Medicine Coalition hosted a congressional briefing, which featured Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts, a Democrat.

Citing the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act and Congress’s sustained support of the Precision Medicine Initiative, the letter asks Price and Dr. Francis Crosson, the chairman of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, to examine how the federal government can help patients obtain genetic testing.

“Despite these important developments,” the letter reads, “many patients do not have access to genetic testing through their health insurance plans that could make state-of-the-art medical approaches a reality for them.”

The letter asks HHS to recommend how the federal government can expand health insurance coverage of genetic testing, increase the number of genetic counselors in the health care workforce, and analyze how genetic testing could help rein in health care costs.

It also appeals to the advisory commission to “review how the current Medicare and Medicaid coverage determination framework may restrain the use of genetic tests that can improve clinical outcomes” and create recommendations for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to better incorporate a precision medicine approach into their delivery of care.

Many of the letter’s signers represent biotech hubs. Four represent districts encompassing parts of the San Francisco Bay Area: Ro Khanna, John Garamendi, Jackie Speier, and Eric Swalwell. The Seattle area was represented by Suzan DelBene and Derek Kilmer. Members from districts including or near Minneapolis, San Diego and Los Angeles also signed the letter.

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