WASHINGTON, July 8 /PRNewswire/ -- Today almost 100 patients and oncologists, who are members of the Community Oncology Alliance (COA), will meet on Capitol Hill to rally in support of health care reform, spotlighting cancer care and the needs of cancer patients. COA will announce and discuss the results of a nationwide survey of more than 1,000 Americans regarding their concerns about cancer treatment insurance coverage, the first survey to chronicle cancer care concerns in regards to healthcare reform.
Speakers include U.S. Representatives Gene Green (D-TX), and Mary Jo Kilroy (D-OH), as well as oncologists and cancer patients who will address why the country's cancer care delivery system is in jeopardy. Other Members are expected, but not confirmed upon release.
Additionally, COA leadership will review how recently proposed cuts in Medicare payments will accelerate this crisis, and discuss its support of recently introduced legislation that offers a solution.
"It is critical for cancer care to be included in the larger healthcare reform debate," said Representative Gene Green (D-TX). "As we address this national crisis, there is clearly a necessity to address the astronomical costs associated with the treatment and extensive services that millions of cancer patients need throughout the nation."
Immediately after the rally, oncologists and cancer patients from across the country will visit their Members of Congress and staff to discuss new legislation that focuses specifically on cancer care. It is the recommendation of these oncologists and patients that cancer care reform must be discussed separately from health care reform, as cancer is not as preventable as many other diseases, and is catastrophic in its impact, both physically and financially.
Survey Results Underscore Shortfalls in Patients' Cancer Care Coverage
During today's events, COA will announce results of a national survey it commissioned revealing that the inability to pay for cancer care is among Americans' top fears about the disease, and that they would take dire steps to afford cancer care, if needed. The survey of a statistically representative sample of 1,022 Americans over 18 years of age was conducted by Opinion Research Corporation June 26-30, 2009.
"The need for healthcare reform is critical to cancer care," said Representative Mary Jo Kilroy (D-OH). "In the urgency to solve this national crisis, there is an unaddressed need to overhaul the high cost of drugs and extensive services required for cancer care that affects the lives of millions of patients."
"By its nature, cancer is an insidious and catastrophic illness that can strike people at any age or stage in their lives, but it is more prevalent with the advance of age," explained Patrick Cobb, M.D., president of COA and managing partner of Hematology-Oncology Centers of the Northern Rockies in Billings, Montana. "That is where Medicare becomes more of an issue, as treatment is costly and complicated; and even after successful treatment, the disease can recur."
Medicare Cuts Proposed
A crucial and pressing topic that today's speakers will address is the proposed cuts in Medicare payments recently announced by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in its 2010 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule. A variety of new provisions scheduled to begin January 1, 2010 will prove disastrous to cancer care unless Congress acts to overturn the cuts, including a 21.5% cut in payments to all physicians as well as an additional 6% cut in Medicare payments to community oncology practices.
"Based on a query of only 50 oncologists, these proposed cuts offer markedly insufficient data provided to CMS by the American Medical Association (AMA) in its Physician Practice Information Survey," explained Dr. Cobb. "What is veritably anecdotal data must not be used as the justification for additional cuts in Medicare payments to community oncology."
Community oncologists, mid-level providers, nurses, practice administrators, accountants, and policy experts reviewed last year's AMA survey and concluded that it was fundamentally flawed for providing correct practice data for community oncology. In a formal letter to the AMA last year, COA past president Dr. Harry M. Barnes objected to the survey -- consisting of completed questionnaires from only 50 oncologists -- and summarized the reasons why the survey was incapable of capturing the complexity of cancer care delivery and oncology practice expenses.
Earlier this year, COA launched its Components of Care survey. Designed by community oncology, the Components of Care survey will accurately capture the clinical and operational components of delivering cancer care. Results are expected in the coming weeks, and will be invaluable in providing a more accurate and realistic picture of community cancer care, which is currently in crisis due to past Medicare cuts and other reimbursement issues.
"The increasing cost of drugs, declining Medicare reimbursement, and the current financial crisis have created a 'perfect storm' that jeopardizes community cancer care, which is relied on by 84% of Americans fighting the disease," explained Dr. Cobb.
COA Offers Aggressive Solutions
Recently, H.R. 2872, the "Medicare Quality Cancer Care Demonstration Act of 2009," was introduced into the House of Representatives by U.S. Representatives Artur Davis (D-AL), Steve Israel (D-NY) and Mary Jo Kilroy (D-OH). H.R. 2872 is a bill that will authorize Congress to direct CMS to implement the Quality Cancer Care Demonstration (QCCD) project.
At the rally, Dr. Cobb will speak about the QCCD project, a landmark initiative to transform the payment system for cancer care. The QCCD will focus on patients covered by Medicare (approximately 45% of cancer patients), involving the collection of data and implementation of a patient-centric program that enhances quality cancer care while controlling costs.
"The Quality Cancer Care Demonstration project offers a means of moving forward immediately, and an architecture for a solution to the current crisis in cancer care," said Dr. Cobb.
Earlier this year, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) introduced into the U.S. Senate S. 1221 "The Medicare Prompt Pay Correction Act" as the companion to the H.R. 1392. Both bills seek to address problems with Medicare reimbursement for cancer drugs and help alleviate a national problem affecting the delivery of cancer care treatment to patients, almost all of whom are treated in community oncology clinics close to their homes.
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 www.communityoncology.org.
|SOURCE Community Oncology Alliance|
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