WASHINGTON, Oct. 23, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The Community Oncology Alliance (COA) announced its full support of a letter to stop the proposed 2014 Physician Fee Schedule cuts to Medicare payments for cancer care sponsored by Congressmen Paul Tonko (D-NY-20) and Devin Nunes (R-CA-22). The letter was signed by a bipartisan coalition of 114 members of the House of Representatives and delivered to Marilyn Tavenner, administrator, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). The letter expresses the Representatives' extreme concern that the proposed cuts to chemotherapy and radiation treatments, as well as diagnostic imaging and pathology, will directly impact seniors' access to life-saving cancer treatments — particularly in rural areas — and increase costs for both seniors and Medicare.
These proposed cuts exacerbate community cancer clinics nationwide already struggling to keep their doors open due to inadequate reimbursements. Over the past six years, COA has tracked the declining state of community cancer care. During that period, 1,338 clinics have been affected, most notably with 288 treatment facilities closing and 469 practices (typically having multiple treatment facilities) merging into or affiliating with hospitals.
Just eight years ago, 87% of cancer care was provided in community cancer clinics. By 2011, that had dropped to 67% and the shift to hospital-based cancer care accelerated in 2012 through 2013 due to a 20% increase in the rate of oncology clinic closings and hospital acquisitions. This has resulted in increasing numbers of seniors with cancer losing access to cancer care, particularly in rural areas, and significantly increased costs for seniors and Medicare.
"By delivering top notch care close to home, community cancer clinics are an essential part of our healthcare system," said Congressman Paul Tonko. "We must ensure that these facilities have the tools they need to thrive so that families dealing with a cancer diagnosis don't lose access to this proven model of care delivery. By asking CMS to reevaluate this flawed proposal, we can ensure that community cancer clinics will be open for patients in need."
"The proposed payment policy fundamentally threatens community cancer care as we know it today," said Congressman Nunes. "Hundreds of facilities have already closed due to misaligned payment rates, and many others are being swallowed into hospital systems. We will not achieve our goal – delivering quality care at the best price – by driving community care into the hospital setting. This bipartisan letter encourages CMS to reconsider its proposal."
The final Medicare Physician Fee Schedule is typically released in early November but may be delayed this year due to the recent government shutdown. For the complete letter with all signatures, go to http://glacialblog.com/userfiles/76/102313_FINAL_CMS%20Letter%20on%202014MPFS%20Cancer%20Care%20Cuts.pdf .
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