Swalwell Urges Improving Access to Genetic Testing for Precision Medicine, the Future of Successful Treatment

March 7, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Rep. Eric Swalwell (CA-15) on Tuesday 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 medicine – individualized healthcare that is the future of successful treatment.

Research in genomics – from the discovery of DNA’s structure to the completion of the Human Genome Project and beyond – has presented tremendous opportunities to help diagnose and treat genetic disorders like cancer, or to predict one’s genetic predisposition to a disease. There 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 medicine – care that is optimized for a specific patient’s genetics, environment and lifestyle – but 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. While 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.

“Especially with the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act and 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,” Swalwell and the other lawmakers wrote. “Both 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.”

The letter urged HHS to start studying how the federal government 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.

In addition to Swalwell, the letter’s signers include Reps. John Conyers (MI-13), Darren Soto (FL-09), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23), Cheri Bustos (IL-17), John Garamendi (CA-03), Jackie Speier (CA-14), Scott Peters (CA-52), Julia Brownley (CA-26), Suzan DelBene (WA-01), Dan Kildee (MI-05), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Betty McCollum (MN-04), Derek Kilmer (WA-06), and Al Lawson (FL-05).

To read the letter in its entirety, click here.