Dr Joseph Alvarnas Explains Cancer Care Equity Act for Medi-Cal Beneficiaries

Joseph Alvarnas, MD, vice president of government affairs at City of Hope and chief clinical adviser of AccessHope in Duarte, California, discusses the recently passed Cancer Care Equity Act in California that provides access to clinical trials and advanced care for Medi-Cal beneficiaries.

Through the Cancer Care Equity Act, Medi-Cal beneficiaries who develop cancer will be given access to one of the state of California’s National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated comprehensive cancer centers (CCCs) or other experts centers close to home, said Joseph Alvarnas, MD, vice president of government affairs at City of Hope and chief clinical adviser of AccessHope in Duarte, California.


What is the Cancer Care Equity Act?

The Cancer Care Equity Act is legislation that was signed by California Governor Gavin Newsom in late September. And what that does is,it gives access to our state Medicaid beneficiaries—the program is called Medi-Cal—it gives that group of patients access to clinical trials and to advanced care at one of the state’s NCI-designated CCCs, or if it's closer to home, one of the state’s NCORP [NCI Community Oncology Research Program] sites, or alternatively to a qualified academic center that might not be an NCI-designated CCC.

The idea here is that for Medi-Cal beneficiaries, it allows them to now benefit from both the clinician close to home, but as their care needs escalate, and patients develop refractory relapsed cancers or become intolerant to known treatments, this opens up a whole avenue of care at NCI-designated CCCs and other experts centers.

You mentioned Medi-Cal beneficiaries, are there any other public health plans covered by this act?

As the initial part of this legislation, no. This will be restricted to Medi-Cal beneficiaries—but California is a different place. Let me put that into context. One-third of the state of California's population, that's about 14.5 million people, are Medi-Cal beneficiaries. So, this represents an enormous proportion of the California population, about one-third, and when we think of this in terms of the issue of cancer, about 189,000 Californians are diagnosed annually with cancer. Roughly one-third of those are beneficiaries of the state Medicaid program.

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