Oncology societies cite access to care in bid to stop Medicare fee cuts

July 27, 2009

Society survey turns up fuel for fight against Medicare cuts.

Professional associations representing oncologists, citing patient access to care, have geared up lobbying campaigns aimed at stopping proposed cuts by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in to payments for medical and radiation oncology services.

In a statement released Monday, ASTRO said the proposed cuts would reduce payments for radiation oncology by up to 30% and said it was urging members to contact their members of Congress. Contact details were being provided through a Radiation Therapy site on the Internet. ASTRO said 28 members of Congress have signed a bipartisan (letter opposing the cuts.

In an announcement July 10 on its website, ASCO urged members to share comments, via e-mail, on the impact a 6% cut in Medicare payments for oncology services will have on the delivery of cancer care.

The ASTRO announcement included details of a survey evaluating the impact of the proposed CMS cuts.

With 513 responses, the ASTRO survey found that two out of five community practices would need to shut their doors if the cuts reached 30%, the society said. Forty-seven percent of rural practices say they would close and 60% of community practices with multiple locations would consolidate their practices. Among those community practices able to stay open, 54% said they will no longer accept Medicare patients and 68% said they would limit the number of Medicare patients they treat.

ASTRO emphasized the impact particularly on rural practices, where patients must sometimes travel long distances for care. In rural areas, the closures and consolidations would force 81% of patients to travel more than 50 miles for care.

ASCO said an in-depth analysis of the proposed cuts was pending and said it would be reaching out to members with specific guidance on communicating with members of Congress to let them know how patients and practices will be directly affected if proposed payment cuts are enacted. A summary of the proposed cuts is available at the following link: components of the fee schedule.

Mr. Hayes is editorial director for Oncology News International.