Who pays for the patient care costs associated with a clinical trial?


Health insurance and managed care providers often do not cover the patient care costs associated with a clinical trial. What they cover varies by health plan and by study. Some health plans do not cover clinical trials if they consider the approach being studied “experimental” or “investigational.” However, if enough data show that the approach is safe and effective, a health plan may consider the approach “established” and cover some or all of the costs. Participants may have difficulty obtaining coverage for costs associated with prevention and screening clinical trials; health plans are currently less likely to have review processes in place for these studies. It may, therefore, be more difficult to get coverage for the costs associated with them. In many cases, it helps to have someone from the research team talk about coverage with representatives of the health plan.

Health plans may specify other criteria a trial must meet to be covered. The trial might have to be sponsored by a specified organization, be judged “medically necessary” by the health plan, not be significantly more expensive than treatments the health plan considers standard, or focus on types of cancer for which no standard treatments are available. In addition, the facility and medical staff might have to meet the plan’s qualifications for conducting certain procedures, such as bone marrow transplantations. More information about insurance coverage can be found on the NCI’s Clinical Trials and Insurance Coverage: A Resource Guide Web page here on the Internet.

Federal programs that help pay the costs of care in a clinical trial include those listed below:

  • Medicare reimburses patient care costs for its beneficiaries who participate in clinical trials designed to diagnose or treat cancer. Information about Medicare coverage of clinical trials is available at https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/clinical-research-studies.html.
  • Beneficiaries of TRICARE, the Department of Defense’s health program, can be reimbursed for the medical costs of participation in NCI-sponsored phase II and phase III cancer prevention (including screening and early detection) and treatment trials.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) allows eligible veterans to participate in NCI-sponsored prevention, diagnosis, and treatment studies nationwide. All phases and types of NCI-sponsored trials are included.

Source: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/clinical-trials/paying