WASHINGTON, Sept. 11, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Community Oncology Alliance (COA) has submitted a formal comment letter in support to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' (CMS) proposed changes to the 340 Drug Discount Program included in the Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment (HOPPS) rules for 2018.
The letter details why COA completely agrees with the CMS proposals relating to 340B in the HOPPS Proposed Rule. The proposal will reduce drug costs for seniors by an estimated $180 million a year; help to stop outrageous hospital abuses of the 340B program; and, hopefully, reverse the perverse incentives that have driven the closure and consolidation of our nation's community cancer care system.
"CMS' proposal is a great first step in reforming 340B and reducing drug costs for seniors, but more is needed. Now it time for Congress to step up and do its part to fix the 340B program. This should include changes that introduce more transparency, accountability, and common-sense," said Ted Okon, executive director of COA. "Countless studies have shown the enormous and unsustainable growth, low charity care levels, cost to patients and taxpayers, and negative impact on the nation's cancer care system that the current program is having. We can't afford to put off fixing the 340B program any longer."
- Read COA's full comment letter to CMS on the proposed 340B and laboratory billing changes in the 2018 HOPPS rule.
In the comment letter COA also recommends that CMS use the funds saved by the 340B program change to support rural providers – i.e. rural hospitals and other types of rural providers – that are acting as true safety nets for patients in need. As opposed to large hospital "corporations" in urban/suburban areas, rural providers typically operate on lower margins and do catch patients who otherwise would fall through the treatment cracks. This is especially important in cancer care, where the number of rural treatment facilities have declined over the past 10+ years forcing patients to travel much farther to access treatment, significantly increasing the impact and burden of fighting this devastating disease. There is an urgent need to support rural providers and COA highly recommends CMS use the savings from this proposal for this purpose.
In addition to the comment letter, COA has also released a new report entitled "How Abuse of the 340B Program is Hurting Patients." Highlighting stories of real cancer patients across the country, the report shows how patients whom 340B was intended to help are often paradoxically harmed by the program, cut off from timely and high-quality care by hospitals seeking to make profits from it. This has been particularly acute for cancer patients who face quotas, wait lists, and significantly higher costs at 340B hospitals that prioritize fully-insured patients and the profits they bring.
"The 340B program has veered far away from its original intent. Now the very patients that 340B was intended to help are often paradoxically being harmed by the program," said Jeffrey Vacirca, MD, president of COA and CEO of NY Cancer Specialists in New York. "Today, practices across the country are reporting cancer patients cut off from timely and high-quality care by hospitals seeking to profit from 340B. These include patients facing quotas, wait lists, significantly higher costs, and even being denied care at 340B hospitals that prioritize fully-insured patients and the profits they bring."
COA's concerns and comments have been echoed in the more than 850 official comments on the proposal submitted over the last two weeks to CMS and members of Congress. Community oncology physicians, nurses, patients, practice staff, and other cancer care stakeholders are united in their strong support for CMS' efforts to end 340B abuses so that the program ultimately helps patients in need, not hospital profits.
About the Community Oncology Alliance: The Community Oncology Alliance (COA) is the only non-profit organization dedicated solely to preserving and protecting access to community cancer care, where the majority of Americans with cancer are treated. COA helps the nation's community cancer clinics navigate a challenging practice environment, improve the quality and value of cancer care, lead patient advocacy, and offer proactive solutions to policy makers. To learn more, visit www.CommunityOncology.org. Follow COA on Twitter at www.twitter.com/oncologyCOA or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CommunityOncologyAlliance
SOURCE Community Oncology Alliance