News | March 01, 2009

ASTRO Applauds Obama Plan to Close Self-Referral Loopholes

March 2, 2009 - The American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) applauds President Obama’s healthcare reform plan to double funding for cancer research and close loopholes that are weakening the Medicare program.

ASTRO believes that the integrity of the Medicare program and quality patient care is being compromised by loopholes in the physician self-referral law - or Stark Law. One particular loophole, called the in-office ancillary exception (IOAE), has become the "loophole that has swallowed the rule".

"There is evidence that some physicians are using the ancillary exception to drop 'turn-key' radiation therapy services into group practices to maximize profit. We are afraid these arrangements compromise the quality of care, limit access, constrain patient choice from the full range of treatment options and result in overutilization of certain treatments," said Laura I. Thevenot, ASTRO's CEO. "ASTRO is committed to working with President Obama and Congress to prevent profit-motivated self-referrals and preserve the independent judgment and choice that patients deserve in making life and death decisions."

ASTRO is asking President Obama and Congress to close the IOAE loophole and responsibly address abuses of the self-referral law. By taking these actions, it believes budgetary savings may result that help advance the President's healthcare priorities. For instance, savings could help increase funding for cancer research or expand coverage, both of which are critical to keep people healthy, save lives and stimulate the economy.

ASTRO strongly supports comprehensive healthcare reform and looks forward to working with the President and Congress to expand coverage of the uninsured, double funding for life-saving cancer research, and strengthen Medicare by fixing its physician payment system and protecting the program's integrity.

ASTRO is the largest radiation oncology society in the world, with more than 10,000 members who specialize in treating patients with radiation therapies. As the leading organization in radiation oncology, biology and physics, the Society is dedicated to improving patient care through education, clinical practice, advancement of science and advocacy.

For more information: www.astro.org

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