Transplant Cell Ther. 2021 Apr;27(4):345-351. doi: 10.1016/j.jtct.2021.01.022. Epub 2021 Jan 29.
Sickle cell disease (SCD) is the most common inherited hemoglobin disorder, affecting approximately 100,000 people in the United States. Allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (alloHCT), also known as bone marrow transplant (BMT), is currently the only established curative option for SCD. However, alloHCT is an optional benefit under Medicaid. This study of alloHCT coverage for patients with SCD aims to understand the scope of state Medicaid coverage benefits and BMT financial coordinators’ experience working with their state Medicaid programs. States estimated to have more than 50 newborns diagnosed with SCD in 2016 and at least one active BMT Clinical Trials Network (1503 [STRIDE 2], NCT02766465) transplant center (TC) were eligible to participate in this study. Qualitative, semi-structured interviews 30 to 60 minutes in length were conducted with BMT financial coordinators via telephone between May and October 2019. A total of 10 BMT financial coordinators from 10 TCs representing eight states (Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia) participated in the semi-structured interviews. Coordinators in all of the included states reported that alloHCT in children with SCD with a human leukocyte antigen-matched sibling donor was covered by their state Medicaid programs. However, only two states (Florida and Texas) had legislative policies mandating coverage of routine medical costs for patients in clinical trials. TCs in two states (Illinois and Pennsylvania) reported accepting out-of-state Medicaid insurance, but only one state (Michigan) covered both travel and lodging for the patient and one caregiver. Four themes emerged when coordinators were asked about their perspectives and experiences working with their corresponding state Medicaid programs: (1) state Medicaid eligibility criteria based on disability were perceived as being restrictive, and Medicaid reimbursement rates were reported to be low; (2) Medicaid fee-for-service plans were perceived as being more comprehensive and easier to navigate compared to comprehensive managed care (CMC) plans; (3) there is a need to address caregiver and financial assistance beyond the health care costs; and (4) completing the insurance authorization process leading up to alloHCT is critical, including peer-to-peer reviews. There is limited legislative policy to help ensure access to clinical trials and provide out-of-state benefits and travel and lodging for Medicaid enrollees with SCD. These data provide insight into potential areas that could influence changes in policy to enhance access to curative therapy for SCD.