Nation's Cancer Care Advocates Urge Deficit Committee to Oppose $3 Billion Medicare Cut to Life-Saving Cancer Drugs

Sep 15, 2011, 16:26 ET from The US Oncology Network

In Letter to Committee, Patient Advocates, Oncologists and Cancer Care Providers Explain How Potential Funding Cut Would Threaten Patients' Access to Community-Based Cancer Care

WASHINGTON, Sept. 15, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In a letter delivered to Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction (Deficit Committee) co-chairs Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), Deficit Committee members and Congressional leadership, nearly 20 national patient advocacy organizations, community cancer care provider groups and health care professional associations urged the Select Committee not to recommend additional cuts to Medicare payments for cancer care as part of any final deficit reduction plan.

As the September 14 letter states, "Over one-half of all cancer patients in the United States are Medicare beneficiaries, and the nation's cancer care delivery system is in jeopardy. Cuts in Medicare payments of the magnitude being considered would worsen the current crisis, decreasing access to quality care for all cancer patients."

Under consideration by the Committee is a proposal to lower Medicare Part B payments for cancer-fighting drugs from the current rate of Average Sales Price (ASP) plus 6 percent to ASP + 3 percent – equivalent to a $3 billion cut to cancer care as scored by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The coalition of cancer care advocates maintains that a reimbursement cut of this amount will create barriers to care for cancer patients as it will force numerous community-based oncology practices – already grappling with previous Medicare cuts and increased administrative burdens – to limit their services or close altogether.

"Community cancer care is in crisis, as evidenced by recent data(1) showing nearly 200 community-based clinics closing within the past three years and hundreds more struggling to survive," said Ted Okon, Executive Director, Community Oncology Alliance. "In addition, the nation's growing cancer drug shortage – which now includes limited availability for more than 20 important chemotherapy drugs – will be exacerbated by additional funding cuts such as the proposed ASP reduction under consideration."

Rather than putting additional strain on patients' ability to obtain convenient, quality cancer care within their own communities, the coalition's letter called attention to the need for legislation (HR 905/S 733) that would reinforce patients' access to local cancer treatment and support the viability of community cancer care practices, thereby also preserving local jobs for trained cancer care specialists and administrative staff.

"Instead of putting even greater burdens on cancer care, we hope to work with members of Congress to put in practice policies that will strengthen care delivery through evidence-based care and quality measurement, said Leonard Kalman, M.D., Chairman of the Public Policy Steering Committee of The US Oncology Network. "Although we appreciate the difficult task before the Committee and Congress in attempting to reduce the federal debt, we ask our lawmakers to seriously consider whether $3 billion is worth weakening the nation's cancer system and disrupting patients' access to quality care in the community."

Letter signatories include the American Association of Clinical Urologists (AACU), American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), American Urological Association (AUA), Amerisource Bergen/ION Solutions, Association of Community Cancer Centers (ACCC), Association of Physician Assistants in Oncology (APAO), BDI Pharma, Cardinal Health, Community Oncology Alliance (COA), Health Coalition, Inc. (HCI), Healthcare Distribution Management Association (HDMA), Large Urology Group Practice Association (LUGPA), Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS), McKesson Corporation, National Patient Advocate Foundation (NPAF), Society of Gynecologic Oncology (SGO), UPMC Cancer Centers and The US Oncology Network.

(1) Community Oncology Alliance – Community Impact Report Updated March 2011

SOURCE The US Oncology Network