Nation's Cancer Care Advocates Applaud Bipartisan Lawmakers' Call on Deficit Committee to Reject $3 Billion Cut to Cancer Care

Oct 14, 2011, 11:34 ET from The US Oncology Network

Congressional Letter to Committee Explains How Proposed Funding Cut to Cancer-Fighting Drugs Would Hinder Patient Access to Life-Saving Treatment, Lead to Significant Cancer Clinic Closures and Clinician Job Losses in Community Setting

WASHINGTON, Oct. 14, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Leading patient advocacy organizations, cancer care provider groups and health care professional associations praised a Congressional letter sent today to members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction from more than 60 bipartisan members of Congress urging the committee to reject a proposed $3 billion cut to cancer drugs that if enacted, according to the letter, would adversely affect cancer care in the U.S.

The proposed payment cut – offered to the committee as a potential offset, or "payfor," within federal debt reduction efforts – would slash reimbursement for cancer-fighting drugs under Medicare Part B from the current rate of Average Sales Price (ASP) plus 6 percent to ASP plus 3 percent. This lower payment would equate to a $3 billion funding cut to cancer care as projected by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

"We thank these lawmakers for coming together in recognition that our nation's community cancer care system is in crisis, and for raising attention to how funding cuts of this magnitude would seriously threaten access to quality care for cancer patients," said Ted Okon, Executive Director, Community Oncology Alliance. "Community oncology practices treat over 80 percent of America's cancer patients, but are in jeopardy due to funding instability. Given that over half of all U.S. cancer patients are Medicare beneficiaries, our already at-risk community cancer centers cannot endure this devastating level of cuts."

The bipartisan letter, led by Reps. Leonard Lance (R-NJ) and Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), states:

Enacting cuts to ASP could also worsen an already troubling access problem, as community oncology practices are already struggling even as demand for cancer care is now starting to exceed the supply of oncologists. According to one report, in the last 3 1/2 years alone, 199 cancer clinics have closed and 369 practices, with multiple clinic locations, are struggling financially. And it is predicted that over the next ten years there will be an oncologist shortage for one in four cancer patients, and enacting $3 billion in cancer cuts will only exacerbate this problem.

"The serious problems plaguing community oncology practices – significant administrative and financial burdens, a looming oncologist shortage, and a very real and dangerous shortage of cancer medications including chemotherapy drugs – will only worsen if these cuts go through, said Leonard Kalman, M.D., Chairman of the Public Policy Steering Committee of The US Oncology Network. "These issues affect more than cancer centers: If practices shut down area employment and local economies will suffer, and most distressingly, patients' access to quality cancer care in the community will be disrupted."

As the Congressional letter to the deficit committee concludes:

The U.S. has the best cancer care delivery system in the world… It is imperative that Congress continues to ensure that cancer patients across the nation can continue to have access to lifesaving medical treatments. It is for this reason that we urge you not to sacrifice cancer care while seeking deficit reduction solutions.

Letter signers include: Lou Barletta (R-PA), John Barrow (D-GA), Brian Bilbray (R-CA), Tim Bishop (D-NY), Madeleine Bordallo (D-GU), Bruce Braley (D-IA), Lois Capps (D-CA), John Carney (D-DE), Andre Carson (D-IN), Kathy Castor (D-FL), Judy Chu (D-CA), Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), Howard Coble (R-NC), Joe Courtney (D-CT), Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Susan Davis (D-CA), Diana DeGette (D-CO), Bob Filner (D-CA), Bill Flores (R-TX), Barney Frank (D-MA), Elton Gallegly (R-CA), Charlie Gonzalez (D-TX), Kay Granger (R-TX), Gene Green (D-TX), Nan Hayworth (R-NY), Brian Higgins (D-NY), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Michael Honda (D-CA), Jay Inslee (D-WA), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Bill Keating (D-MA), Larry Kissell (D-NC), Leonard Lance (R-NJ), Tom Latham (R-IA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Stephen Lynch (D-MA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Doris Matsui (D-CA), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Jim McGovern (D-MA), David McKinley (R-WV), Patrick Meehan (R-PA), Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Richard Neal (D-MA), Richard Nugent (R-FL), John Olver (D-MA), Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), Ed Pastor (D-AZ), Ted Poe (R-TX), Reid Ribble (R-WI), Mike Rogers (R-MI), Dennis Ross (R-FL), Tim Ryan (D-OH), Linda Sanchez (D-CA), Terri Sewell (D-AL), Jackie Speier (D-CA), John Tierney (D-MA), Paul Tonko (D-NY), Edolphus Towns (D-NY), Niki Tsongas (D-MA) and John Yarmuth (D-KY).

SOURCE The US Oncology Network