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Nobel Peace Prize Winner Stephen Schneider Keynotes Annual Conference of Community Oncologists

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz., Feb. 5 /PRNewswire/ -- Stephen H. Schneider, Ph.D., professor of Environmental Biology and Global Change at Stanford University, a climatologist and cancer survivor who shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore, will be the keynote speaker at the fourth annual Community Oncology Conference Feb. 5-7 at the FireSky Hotel in Scottsdale. The conference attracts health care professionals from community settings, where 84% percent of the cancer care in this country is provided, ranging from private practice-based oncologists, hematologists, oncology nurses, and pharmacists to practice administrators.

"The future of the country's cancer care delivery system is in jeopardy," explained Patrick Cobb, M.D., president of the Community Oncology Alliance (COA) and managing partner of Hematology-Oncology Centers of the Northern Rockies in Billings, Montana. "Community oncology practices, which treat most Americans with cancer, are facing tough decisions to cut staff, services, and facilities, due to major problems associated with Medicare drug and services reimbursement. At this week's annual COA Conference, cancer healthcare professionals from around the nation will address and discuss how we can avert this crisis."

The Crisis in Cancer Care

Since the passage of the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, reimbursement for cancer care by Medicare, which covers approximately 45% of Americans with cancer, has been cut dramatically. With diminishing service payments, numerous community clinics have no choice but to close their doors. Loss of these community treatment options leads to treatment of more patients in the general hospital setting, especially under-insured or uninsured patients, which can drive up costs and result in inefficiently coordinated, substandard treatment and increased likelihood of medical errors.

Solutions to Be Studied

COA has been working with Congress to ensure that cancer patients will continue to receive quality care in their own communities. Towards that end, COA will announce the initiation of two comprehensive studies to identify the aspects of current reimbursement policies that now risk the delivery of modern day, quality cancer care in community oncology practices and quantify the negative impact of these policies. COA has commissioned Avalere Health, a strategic healthcare advisory firm, to conduct the studies.

The Components of Care Study will quantify the full range of services performed by community oncology practices, including those currently reimbursed by Medicare and private insurers as well as many of the services that are unrecognized and thus uncompensated by payers. The study will include an in-depth survey of thousands of oncologists in 300 community oncology settings to provide data regarding the time physicians and staff spend on each component of care, as well as financial information about the actual capital and expense costs necessary for operating a community oncology practice.

The second study, the Oral Oncolyctics Study, will identify existing barriers to patient access for oral vs. injectable/intravenous cancer treatments, and the ability for physicians to make decisions regarding the most appropriate mode of treatment administration. After identifying the barriers, the study will identify potential strategies to remove obstacles to accessing oral oncology therapy.

About the Community Oncology Conference

The conference is designed to meet the specific needs of the community oncology practice, from timely clinical presentations to practice management tools, government lobbying efforts and payer strategies. It promises to be a highly useful meeting for those struggling to continue to provide quality care in their communities.

For the first time, the conference will host a "Town Hall" meeting to provide cancer care professionals at all levels with the opportunity to discuss these and other pressing issues facing community oncology. The open-mike session will be hosted by Lee Schwartzberg, M.D., a practicing medical oncologist and chairman of the conference, along with Ted Okon, COA's executive director.

Dr. Schwartzberg will also moderate a panel on "The $96 Billion Dilemma: Who Will Pay for Cancer Care?" The panel highlights a pressing issue for community oncologists, who treat 84 percent of cancer patients. Many are being forced to close their offices as government and insurance reimbursements no longer cover the costs of cancer drugs and the costs to treat patients.

Documentary filmmaker, Gordon Quinn, the executive producer of "Hoop Dreams" and who has been diagnosed with leukemia, will participate in the panel discussion, "Living with the Specter of Cancer."

The conference is sponsored by Community Oncology Alliance; Community Oncology, the Elsevier publication that serves as an invaluable resource for oncology practitioners in private practice; Reed Medical Education and Mosby's Office of Nursing Continuing Education, Elsevier companies which provide continuing medical education to healthcare professionals.

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% 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 proving 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 1 in 2 lifetime risk of developing cancer, with a risk of 1 in 3 for women. For more information, please visit

SOURCE Community Oncology Alliance
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