News | Radiation Therapy | October 02, 2015

ASTRO Praises Congress for Resistance to Proposed Medicare Radiation Oncology Payment Cuts

One in three Congressional members sign bipartisan letters to CMS expressing concern

ASTRO praises Congress, 2016 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule, MPFS, payment cuts, radiation oncology

October 2, 2015 — The American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) applauded the members of Congress who signed letters expressing concerns about the recent and newly proposed Medicare cuts to radiation oncology. The 2016 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (MPFS), issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) July 8, proposed new cuts to community-based radiation oncology providers that, if finalized, will amount to payment reductions totaling roughly 20 percent to cancer care over the last 6 years. 

In response to the proposal, letters organized by U.S. Senators Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Reps. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) were sent to CMS Administrator Andy Slavitt on Sept. 30, 2015. The bipartisan letters signed by 167 House and 40 Senate members objected to Medicare’s proposal to cut radiation oncology payments to community-based cancer centers by approximately 5-7 percent for 2016—potentially higher based on a practice’s particular patient mix.

A significant portion of the cuts were due to changes in how CMS accounts for the costs of the use of linear accelerators and associated imaging equipment, both of which are vital to the delivery of safe and effective radiation therapy. Data from ASTRO’s July survey of the almost 1,400 community-based radiation therapy centers in the United States indicates that with cuts of five to 10 percent, nearly 30 percent of practices may have to close their doors, particularly those operating in rural communities.

“By delivering top-notch care close to home, community cancer clinics are an essential part of our healthcare system. We must ensure that these facilities have the tools they need to thrive so that families dealing with a cancer diagnosis don’t lose access to this proven model of care delivery. By asking CMS to reevaluate these flawed cuts that could harm patients with a diagnosis of breast or prostate cancer, we can ensure that community cancer clinics will be open for those in need,” said Rep. Tonko. In their letter, Senators Burr and Stabenow state that they “recognize the valuable role community-based radiation therapy plays in meeting patients’ oncology needs,” and that they are “concerned that the proposed cuts could further jeopardize patient access to this treatment option.”

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