Med-QUEST works with UH Cancer Center to ensure access to clinical trials for cancer patients

January 21, 2020


The State of Hawaiʻi Department of Human Services Med-QUEST Division , a patient-centric Medicaid program, has worked with the University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center to ensure access to clinical trials for cancer patients in Hawaiʻi. Med-QUEST issued a memorandum “to provide guidance regarding the coverage of routine costs associated with qualifying clinical trials” for the prevention, diagnosis, treatment or supportive care of cancer.

Hawaiʻi was one of only a dozen states without legislation or a formal policy to provide coverage of routine care costs associated with cancer clinical trial participation for Medicaid beneficiaries, who make up about one quarter of the state’s population and over 40 percent of all of the children. The guidance clarified that Medicaid patients can participate in clinical trials which offers the best treatment options and highest quality of care for cancer patients,” said Jessica Rhee, MD, UH Cancer Center’s Clinical Trials Office medical director.

“I’m very appreciative to Dr. Judy Mohr Peterson, Med-QUEST division administrator, Dr. Curtis Toma, Med-QUEST medical director and Dr. Jessica Rhee for working so diligently and collaboratively to create a policy that addresses the needs of some of the most vulnerable cancer patients in Hawaiʻi,” said Randall Holcombe, MD, UH Cancer Center director. “This is an effort supported by multiple state legislators and healthcare organizations, Hawaiʻi Society of Clinical Oncology, and the Hawaiʻi chapters of American Cancer Society and Susan G. Komen.”

Med-QUEST cancer patients in Hawaiʻi receive coverage for routine care costs such as doctors’ visits and laboratory tests. Med-QUEST unlike Medicare and private insurance is not federally required to cover these routine care costs for patients participating in clinical trials. This policy guidance will ensure equal access to the best treatments available on clinical trials for Med-QUEST cancer patients.

“I believe clinical trials coverage should be available to all cancer patients. I am proud of the work we have done to ensure Hawaiʻi’s Medicaid enrollees have access to the most novel and potentially lifesaving treatments through clinical trials,” said Judy Mohr Peterson , PhD, Medicaid director and administrator for Med-QUEST.

Grace Lee

“This is a major step forward and something that we have been discussing with Dr. Rhee for many months. As a lung cancer survivor who was told I had six to 12 months, I know the importance of having access to and coverage for any and all cancer treatment options,” said Grace Lee, a member of the community-based Patient Advocacy Committee (PAC) that provides input to the UH Cancer Center about community needs and concerns. This effort aligns with the mission of UH Cancer Center to reduce the burden of cancer through research, education, patient care and community outreach and will particularly benefit patients from our low-income communities by providing access to innovative and high-quality, cost-effective care.

For more information about UH Cancer Center clinical trials call (808) 586-2979.


About the State of Hawaiʻi Department of Human Services (DHS) and Med-QUEST (MQD)

The State of Hawaiʻi Department of Human Services’ mission is to encourage self-sufficiency and support the well-being of individuals, families, and communities in Hawaiʻi. The department’s Med-QUEST Division provides eligible low-income adults and children access to health and medical coverage through managed care plans. The QUEST program is designed to provide Quality care, Universal access, Efficient utilization, Stabilizing costs, and to Transform the way health care is provided to recipients. To learn more about DHS and MQD programs and services, go to .