Letter Calling for a Stop to Cancer Care Cuts Presented to HHS & CMS

Signed by 85 Members of the House of Representatives

Oct 06, 2010, 08:00 ET from Community Oncology Alliance

WASHINGTON, Oct. 6 /PRNewswire/ -- The Community Oncology Alliance (COA) announced today that a letter, sponsored by Representative Steve Israel (D-NY) and signed by 85 members of the House of Representatives was delivered to Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius and Chief of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) Donald M. Berwick.  The letter calls for forestalling additional cuts to cancer care called for in the Proposed 2011 Physician Fee Schedule for Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.

"We have made significant strides in treating cancer in this country and Americans receive better cancer care than anywhere else in the world," said David Eagle, MD, president of COA and partner at Lake Norman Hematology Oncology Specialists, Mooresville, NC.  "We commend Representative Israel for his efforts to bring the crisis in cancer care to the attention of other members of the House and use their combined voices to alert HHS and CMS.  Community oncology cannot withstand yet another reimbursement cut and continue to deliver cutting edge care; our progress will be lost and patients will suffer if the proposed cuts are implemented."

Since 2004, reimbursement for the administration of chemotherapy has been cut by an estimated 35%.  Ted Okon, executive director of COA, reports "When taking into account the increased costs of operating a medical practice as measured by the Medical Economic Index, this is actually an effective reduction of 47 percent."  In addition, a recent study by Avalere Health showed that Medicare covers only 57% of the costs of chemotherapy administration.  The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has scheduled reimbursement cuts for 2011, 2012, and 2013, at which time Medicare will cover less than half the cost of these essential cancer care services.

By sending the letter to HHS and CMS, the signers request that CMS reevaluate the Medicare payment cuts that are scheduled for 2011 and every subsequent year through 2013.  These cuts are documented in the proposed 2011 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule, which CMS is in the process of finalizing.  These cancer-specific cuts will be exacerbated by the 23.5% overall Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) Medicare reimbursement reduction that is effective Dec. 1, 2010 and an additional SGR reduction of 6.5% on Jan. 1, 2011 unless Congress acts to avert them.

"COA commends Congressman Israel and the 84 other Representatives supporting cancer care.  There is a real crisis escalating as more cancer clinics close and patients fall through the treatment cracks," added Dr. Eagle.  "The oncology provider community is working hard on enhancements to the quality and efficiency of cancer care, as witnessed by the demonstration project we developed and was included in the health care reform law.  However, Medicare's unrealistic cuts to cancer care have to stop or the world's best delivery system will be in ruins."

About Community Oncology Alliance (COA)

Formed in 2003 in response to the Medicare Modernization Act, COA is a non-profit organization dedicated solely to community oncology.  COA was founded by community oncologists to advocate for patients and providers in the community oncology setting, where four out of five Americans with cancer are treated.

Currently, COA is working with the Congress in providing proactive solutions designed to protect the viability of the nation's cancer care delivery system and patients' access to quality, affordable cancer care.  The cancer death rate in the U.S. has declined due to earlier detection, the quality of treatment, and the accessibility of cancer care.  However, according to the American Cancer Society, men still have an approximately one in two lifetime risk of developing cancer, with a risk of one in three for women. For more information, please visit www.communityoncology.org.

SOURCE Community Oncology Alliance