228 Bipartisan Members of Congress Send Letters to CMS Urging Against 6% Proposed Cuts to Freestanding Radiation Therapy for Medicare Patients

Lawmakers warn that proposed Medicare cuts pose greatest threat to African American and female cancer patients due to cuts of 25% and 19%, respectively, for prostate and breast cancer treatments

Sep 30, 2015, 13:19 ET from Radiation Therapy Alliance

WASHINGTON, Sept. 30, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Radiation Therapy Alliance (RTA) – a non-profit organization representing free-standing radiation therapy centers dedicated to providing a greater understanding of the value of community-based cancer care and the importance of logical, predictable payment reform to ensure patient access to state-of-the-art, quality care – today applauded 228 bipartisan members of the U.S. Congress for signing letters to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) urging that the agency reconsider the proposed cuts to radiation therapy in the 2016 Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) Proposed Rule.

During the last week of September, three separate letters were issued to CMS from Congress that were signed by 40 U.S. Senators and 188 members of the U.S. House of Representatives cautioning CMS against advancing proposed cuts to freestanding radiation oncology.  The letters included a letter from the Senate, a letter from the House of Representatives, and a letter from the Congressional Black Caucus.

In its 2016 PFS Proposed Rule, CMS has proposed cutting Medicare payments to freestanding radiation therapy centers by six percent next year.  If the proposed PFS changes were adopted, the payments for a course of care for prostate and breast cancer would be reduced dramatically. Cancer care advocates, including physicians, specialty societies, and patient advocate groups have warned that such cuts will significantly harm access to care for cancer patients.

"We applaud Senators Richard Burr and Debbie Stabenow and Representatives Devin Nunes, Paul Tonko and Robin Kelly for leading efforts in the U.S. Senate, the House of Representatives and the Congressional Black Caucus to draw attention to these unjustifiable cuts and urge CMS to reconsider the proposed cuts and their negative impact on vulnerable cancer patients," said Christopher Rose, MD, Chair of the Radiation Therapy Alliance Policy Committee. 

Forty Senators and 167 members of the U.S. House of Representatives signed identical letters to CMS citing the impact proposed reimbursement cuts would have on Americans diagnosed with prostate and breast cancer writing, "Radiation oncology is an important cancer treatment option in the battle against cancer, offering patients less invasive care on an outpatient basis that allows many patients to continue living their lives while receiving treatment.  Yet, if CMS' proposed rule is finalized, radiation oncology services will face another three percent overall cut, while freestanding cancer centers would be subject to approximately a six percent payment cut.  These cuts could particularly adversely impact patients with prostate and breast cancer because the proposed rule could cut payments for care for these patients by 25 percent and 19 percent, respectively."

Thirty members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) are particularly concerned about the negative impact of the agency's proposed cuts on access to care for the African American community due to the disproportionate prevalence of prostate and breast cancers among African Americans.  In their letter, the CBC lawmakers write, "Overall, we are very concerned about the impact that these cuts could have on all patients' access to care, specifically African Americans.  For example, peer reviewed data shows that the lack of a radiation oncologist in less populated areas is associated with increased rates of prostate cancer mortality.  African American men would be particularly vulnerable given that data shows the death rate for prostate cancer is 2.4 times higher in African American men than in white men.  African American women also have higher death rates overall for breast and several other cancer sites.  Moreover, African American women are less likely to receive breast conserving therapy than mastectomy.  Because peer-reviewed literature shows that longer travel times to oncology care are associated with decreases in breast conserving therapy for women with breast cancer, these cuts will further disadvantage African American women."

All three letters to CMS stressed the critical importance of patient access to quality and timely cancer care in the community setting.  Data show nearly 65 percent of all cancer patients are treated with radiation therapy and nearly 40 percent of all radiation therapy is provided in freestanding, community-based facilities.

To learn more, visit radiationtherapyalliance.com.


SOURCE Radiation Therapy Alliance