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March 14, 2017 > Swalwell urges improved access to genetic testing

Swalwell urges improved access to genetic testing

Submitted By Josh Richman

Rep. Eric Swalwell (CA-15) led 14 other Members of Congress in urging the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) to study how to improve access to genetic testing and attain better patient outcomes through precision medicineÑindividualized healthcare that is the future of successful treatment.

Research in genomicsÑfrom the discovery of DNAÕs structure to the completion of the Human Genome Project and beyondÑhas presented tremendous opportunities to help diagnose and treat genetic disorders like cancer, or to predict oneÕs genetic predisposition to a disease.ÊThere are now tens of thousands of genetic tests for thousands of disorders. These tests not only have the potential to further the emerging field of precision medicineÑcare that is optimized for a specific patientÕs genetics, environment and lifestyleÑbut also can cut health-care costs with better diagnoses and preventive measures.

Yet many of these tests are not covered by insurance providers, including Medicare and Medicaid.ÊWhile genetic testing will us help realize a brighter future for health care, achievements will be limited unless patients have access to such testing through their health insurance.

ÒEspecially with the passage of theÊ21st Century Cures ActÊand continued funding for the Precision Medicine Initiative and Cancer Moonshot, we remain committed to advancing medical innovation and considering the uniqueness of each and every patient,Ó Swalwell and the other lawmakers wrote. ÒBoth the absence of health insurance coverage, including under Medicare and Medicaid, and barriers like pre-approval and extended waiting periods for genetic counseling prevent patients from undergoing testing, understanding their results, and utilizing these results to tailor treatment.Ó

The letter urged HHS to start studying how the federal government can promote can promote the insurance coverage of genetic tests for use in clinical settings. It also asked MedPAC to review how Medicare and Medicaid coverage determinations for genetic testing affect the prospects for precision medicine treatment approaches.

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