Community Oncology Alliance Announces Support of Bill to Help Stabilize the Nation’s Deteriorating Cancer Care Delivery System


Proposed Bill Will Correct CMS’ Inappropriate Application of the Sequester Cut To Payments for Cancer Drugs

WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 19, 2015) – The Community Oncology Alliance (COA), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving access to community cancer care, announced its vigorous support of the Cancer Patient Protection Act of 2015 (H.R. 1416), a bipartisan bill introduced by Representatives Renee Ellmers (R-NC2) and Steve Israel (D-NY3). The bill stops the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) from inappropriately applying the Medicare sequester cut to the underlying payment for cancer drugs and other Part B therapies.

Many members of Congress have expressed concerns about the detrimental effect of CMS’ ill-advised cut to the payment for cancer drugs, and this is now being documented by closings of cancer clinics, consolidation into the more expensive hospital setting, and patient access problems, especially in rural areas. According to the annual report just released this week by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, The State of Cancer Care in America, “For the more than 59 million Americans living in rural areas, a diagnosis of cancer can present unique challenges to obtaining high-quality care for their disease, including long travel distances and decreased access to specialists, and state-of-the-art diagnostics, treatments and technologies.”

“The sequestration cut has adversely affected patient care,” said Dr. Jeff Vacirca, CEO of NSHOA Cancer Center, East Setauket, N.Y., and COA vice president. “The cut has caused cancer clinics to limit their services or close altogether, further restricting access to care and forcing cancer patients to seek care in costlier, more distant hospital settings. Congress needs to act now and follow the lead of Congresswoman Ellmers and Congressman Israel in stopping CMS from making destructive payments cuts to cancer care.” 

COA has long maintained that CMS should not be applying the sequester cut to the underlying cost of cancer drugs, defined by average sales price. H.R. 1416 stops CMS from applying the cut for two years while the Government Accountability Office (GAO) studies the impact on the consolidating cancer care delivery system. The bill does it in a budget neutral manner, thus H.R. 1416 has no cost to the federal budget. 

“CMS should not be applying the sequester cut to the payment for cancer drugs because payment is fixed in law,” said Ted Okon, COA executive director. “It’s so ironic that CMMI, the innovation arm of CMS, is trying to sell us on implementing a new payment model for oncology while community oncology practices are struggling financially to keep their doors open because of CMS payment cuts. We applaud Representatives Ellmers and Israel for stepping up to save cancer care.”

About Community Oncology Alliance (COA)
The Community Oncology Alliance (COA) is a non-profit organization dedicated solely to preserving and protecting access to community cancer care, where almost 70 percent of Americans with cancer are treated. COA leads community cancer clinics in navigating an increasingly challenging environment to provide efficiencies, patient advocacy, and proactive solutions to Congress and policy makers. More information can be found at 

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