WASHINGTON, July 18, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The Community Oncology Alliance (COA) today lauds Representative Renee Ellmers of North Carolina who is the sponsor of the Cancer Patient Protection Act of 2013, H.R. 1416, and the 102 members of Congress who have signed on as cosponsors. When passed, the bill would terminate the application of sequestration to payment for physician-administered chemotherapy drugs under part B of the Medicare program. Currently the sequestration cut is being applied to these drugs forcing physicians to refer many patients to hospitals for treatment because Medicare payments are less than costs. Hospital-based treatment costs both the patient and Medicare more, most often takes longer, and in many cases significantly increases the distance the patient must travel for cancer care.
A recent survey of community oncologists revealed that sequestration cuts to cancer drugs and services if still in place on July 31 will force 62% of practices to send Medicare patients elsewhere for treatment, 38% to begin laying off staff and 20% to begin merger/affiliation discussions with hospitals. The cost differential between cancer care delivered in a community oncology practice versus hospital setting will actually result in higher costs to Medicare than if there were no sequestration cuts at all. Patients will also see an increase in the cost of care. The impact is particularly profound as approximately 50% of all cancer patients are covered by Medicare.
"Sequestration was never intended to limit access to treatment for cancer patients or to increase the cost of that treatment," said Dr. Mark Thompson, COA president and an oncologist at the Zangmeister Center in Columbus, Ohio. "Those patients have found in Rep. Ellmers and the 102 cosponsors champions seeking to prevent sequestration cuts from making treatment less available and more costly. If we cannot do that, the lives of those patients may be in peril."
"Rep. Ellmers has given Congress the opportunity to put aside politics and immediately address this crisis for seniors battling cancer," said Ted Okon, executive director of COA. "To date, the government has been able to fix the flight delays and lessen the work furloughs, yet fixing the sequester cuts to save cancer patients' lives has not been enacted. Thankfully, the cosponsors have joined Rep. Ellmers to speak for patients who were never intended to be the target of sequestration. We are grateful to them."
H.R. 1416 has bi-partisan cosponsorship. The 102 cosponsors constitute 23% of the members of the U.S. House of Representatives and represent 35 states and the Virgin Islands. Cosponsors include nine of the 13 representatives from Rep. Ellmers' home state of North Carolina and Rep. Dave Camp, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
About Community Oncology Alliance (COA)
Celebrating its 10th anniversary during 2013, the Community Oncology Alliance (COA) is a non-profit organization dedicated solely to community cancer care, where four out of five Americans with cancer are treated. Since its formation, COA has helped community cancer clinics navigate an increasingly hostile environment by working together to become more efficient, advocating for their patients, and proactively providing solutions to the Congress and policy makers. COA members have testified before both chambers of Congress, authored cancer care demonstration projects and been instrumental in the passage of oral cancer drug parity legislation, among many other initiatives. COA is leading a multi-stakeholder group that is developing and implementing an Oncology Medical Home cancer care model and is advancing payment reform for cancer care. More information can be found at www.CommunityOncology.org.
The COA Patient Advocacy Network (CPAN) was created in 2010 to advocate for access to local affordable care for all cancer patients. More information can be found at www.COAadvocacy.org.
SOURCE Community Oncology Alliance