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Cancer Community Alarmed at CMS Policy Lumping Life-Saving Cancer Therapy With Diagnostic Testing For Major Funding Cuts
Date:9/1/2009

y treatments. Of particular concern in the rule is a proposed policy that raises the utilization rate for medical equipment costing over one million dollars from 50 to 90 percent. The lawmakers and other experts in the industry warn that cuts of this size will result in the closing of many freestanding and community-based cancer centers, particularly in rural areas, harming patient access to care.

"As a radiation oncologist who practiced in the community setting, I am aware of how these severe cuts would limit access to life-saving radiation therapy for cancer patients," said Rep. Griffith. "I am proud to be working on healthcare reform to expand access to high quality, effective care for cancer patients and all Americans, and I look forward to working with both parties as well as the administration to find a solution that averts these cuts and protects patient access to care."

The Congressional letter submitted to Secretary Sebelius, signed by more than 60 Members of Congress, asked CMS to refrain from finalizing the proposed reductions in Medicare payment for radiation oncology services, and to refrain from applying a higher assumed equipment utilization rate to radiation oncology equipment. The letter states:

"We are writing you today to emphasize a clear distinction: Radiation therapy is not diagnostic imaging. . . The therapeutic use of radiation to treat cancer should not be the target of those concerned with volume growth in the area of diagnostic imaging."

The proposal to reduce rates for diagnostic imaging was made by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) in their March 2009 report. MedPAC has subsequently stated that it never intended to include radiation therapy in any Medicare reimbursement cuts and yet CMS proposed to extend the cuts to radiation oncology anyway.

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), radiation th
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SOURCE US Oncology
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