Purpose: Exome sequencing (ES) has the potential to improve management of congenital anomalies and neurodevelopmental disorders in fetuses, infants, and children. US payers are key stakeholders in patient access to ES. We examined how payers view insurance coverage and clinical utility of pediatric and prenatal ES.
Methods: We employed the framework approach of qualitative research to conduct this study. The study cohort represented 14 payers collectively covering 170,000,000 enrollees.
Results: Seventy-one percent of payers covered pediatric ES despite perceived insufficient evidence because they saw merit in available interventions or in ending the diagnostic odyssey. None covered prenatal ES, because they saw no merit. For pediatric ES, 50% agreed with expanded aspects of clinical utility (e.g., information utility), and 21% considered them sufficient for coverage. For prenatal ES, payers saw little utility until in utero interventions become available.
Conclusion: The perceived merit of ES is becoming a factor in payers' coverage for serious diseases with available interventions, even when evidence is perceived insufficient. Payers' views on ES's clinical utility are expanding to include informational utility, aligning with the views of patients and other stakeholders. Our findings inform clinical research, patient advocacy, and policy-making, allowing them to be more relevant to payers.
Keywords: clinical utility; exome sequencing; insurance coverage; pediatric genetic testing; prenatal genetic testing.