The Trump Administration Should Stand for Cancer Patients’ Freedom to Choose

On May 17, the federal government may decide that it can dictate to cancer patients where they are allowed to receive life-saving treatment, and where they are not. That type of control is seriously dangerous; restricting access to treatmentin this manner gives the government far too much sway over people’s lives for no clear benefit.

On February 15 the Center for Medicare Medicaid Services (CMS) released a good proposal intended to help victims suffering from certain types of cancer, specifically those relating to the blood, like leukemia, by expanding access to CAR-T cell therapy. CAR-T is widely considered to be a medical breakthrough; the treatment is at least partially—if not wholly—successful in 80 percent of cases. But despite the treatment’s fabulous success rate, some cancer sufferers may be unable to take advantage of it due to one restrictive mandate within its National Coverage Determination (NCD).

The NCD outlines the cases in which treatments are covered and those in which they are not. In the case of CAR-T, within CMS’ otherwise commendable policy proposal, the agency will permit CAR-T treatment only when it is administered in hospitals. This stipulation is counterproductive red tape and can restrict people’s access to this life-saving cancer treatment. It is yet another example of the unintended, destructive consequences of government-controlled health care.

At first glance that restriction might seem entirely reasonable. After all, aren’t sick people treated in hospitals? Yes, but when it comes to treating cancer, hospitals are by no means the only viable option for care.

Over the course of the last decade, there has been a surge in outpatient facilities that treat cancer patients as well. These facilities have become especially important for those who live in rural areas and do not have an inpatient facility within reach. Demonstrating the value of the free market in health care, the growing marketplace for treatment locations provides patients with greater opportunity to choose the facilities that are right for them. Leave it to the federal government to inadvertently strip that freedom away.

To the credit of America’s governing officials, many members of Congress have recognized the CAR-T hospital treatment requirement for what

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