Community Oncologists Launch Petition to Stop Drastic Cancer Care Cuts

Planned Medicare Cuts Threaten U.S. Cancer Care Delivery System

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Community Oncology Alliance, COA
Absorbing more payment cuts is not sustainable, especially as the cost of treating cancer continues to rise,” commented Dr. Patrick J. Cobb. “Everyone concerned about the future of cancer care in this country should sign this petition.

Washington, DC (Vocus) January 27, 2010

Community oncologists nationwide, under the support and leadership of the Community Oncology Alliance (COA), launched a national petition to urge President Obama and lawmakers to reverse drastic cuts in reimbursement for cancer care implemented by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on January 1, 2010 and compounding through 2013.

The Stop Cancer Care Cuts Petition (http://www.communityoncology.org/coa-petition ) seeks to prevent a series of severe Medicare cuts that the organization predicts will dismantle the U.S. cancer care delivery system. The petition, which has already reached 15,000 signatures, will be delivered to President Obama and the 111th Congress.

“These cuts, as they are planned, will decrease reimbursements far beyond what the U.S. cancer care delivery system -- and most patients -- can bear,” said Patrick Cobb, M.D., president of COA and managing partner of Hematology-Oncology Center of the Northern Rockies in Billings, Montana.

Medicare has already severely cut payments for cancer care -- more than 25% since 2004 for the administration of life-saving cancer drugs alone -- which has affected doctors’ ability to treat patients. Starting this month Medicare has cut payments for the drug administration of life-saving cancer drugs further by 5%, and will continue to make additional cuts every year through 2013; these payments will be cut by close to 20%. Payment cuts are also being made to imaging tests -- such as PET and CT scans -- that help find and manage cancer.

In addition to oncology-specific cuts, there will be a 21% payment cut for all physicians’ services starting in March 2010 if Congress does not act quickly to stop it.

“Absorbing more payment cuts is not sustainable, especially as the cost of treating cancer continues to rise,” commented Dr. Patrick J. Cobb. “Everyone concerned about the future of cancer care in this country should sign this petition. That includes members of the cancer care delivery team, cancer patients, caregivers, and survivors. We must convince our elected leaders of the urgent need to stop cuts to cancer clinics.”

Community cancer clinics, which treat 84% of all U.S. cancer patients, cannot continue to operate when their costs are greater than revenues. In response to these cuts, some clinics have already closed; others have been forced to reduce staff and send patients elsewhere for treatment.

“Virtually every medical specialty is weighing in on health care reform and the increasing number of obstacles providers face in delivering care,” said Ted Okon, executive director of COA. “Given that the U.S. has the best cancer care system in the world, we should be building on our success in increasing the survival for Americans battling cancer.”

About Community Oncology Alliance (COA)
COA is a non-profit organization dedicated solely to community oncology. COA was founded by community oncology to advocate for patients and providers in the community oncology setting, where 84 percent of Americans with cancer are treated. In only six years of existence, COA has mobilized community oncology to become more politically active, and increased awareness on Capitol Hill about the community cancer care delivery system. Additionally, COA has brought together community oncology practices from across the country to share information in order to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the cancer care they provide to their patients.

Currently, COA is working with the Congress in providing proactive solutions designed to protect the viability of the nation’s cancer care delivery system and patients' access to quality, affordable cancer care. The cancer death rate in the U.S. has declined due to earlier detection, the quality of treatment, and the accessibility of cancer care. However, according to the American Cancer Society, men still have an approximately one in two lifetime risk of developing cancer, with a risk of one in three for women. For more information, please visit http://www.communityoncology.org .

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