Tag Archives: ACCC Capitol Hill Day

Why I’m Going to Capitol Hill On March 29

By Virginia Vaitones, MSW, OSW-C

U.S. CapitolACCC Capitol Hill Day 2017 happens to coincide with national Social Work Month, which the National Association of Social Workers is marking with theme Social Workers Stand Up.  As an oncology social worker, this year I’m putting on my patient advocate’s hat, standing up, and going to Capitol Hill to share with legislators the stories of how my patients are being impacting by worry and uncertainty about how  changes to the Affordable Care Act and the Medicaid program may affect their insurance coverage and access  to care.

My home state of Maine has the distinction of having the oldest population in the country per capita and Knox County, where I live and work, has the oldest population in the state.  Many of my patients who are on Medicare also have MaineCare (Maine’s Medicaid program) as their secondary insurance.  The current proposed changes to how the federal government supports states with Medicaid funding will have a tremendous impact on my patients.

Besides the elderly population that I need to advocate for, the proposed cuts and changes in payment will have an impact on my younger patients who become disabled with their cancer diagnosis and depend on Medicaid to cover the cost of their cancer treatments.  As a patient advocate, I will be standing up for these patients as well.

My advocacy skills also are needed to bring the stories of how cancer impacts parents, small business owners, and working adults with a cancer diagnosis, who for the first time were able to afford health insurance under the ACA and now face uncertainty about whether they will have coverage or be able to continue to afford the cost of coverage.

Last but not least, I work in a rural community hospital whose doors are always open and that will treat patients whether or not they have insurance coverage.  I need to advocate for my hospital so that we can keep our doors open.

Capitol Hill Day, March 29, will bring together ACCC members representing cancer programs from across the country.  Together we will be standing up for our patients, for access to quality care close to home, and for our cancer programs.


Virginia Vaitones, MSW, OSW-C, is oncology social worker at Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport, Maine, and a past president of the Association of Community Cancer Centers (ACCC). 

Speak Up Now!

by Leah Ralph, Director of Health Policy, ACCC

U.S. CapitolFor this year’s ACCC Capitol Hill Day, Wednesday, March 29, ACCC advocates will descend on Washington, D.C., with newfound motivation. As Congress grapples with the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and debates the merits of protecting patients with pre-existing conditions vs. high-risk pools, refundable tax credits vs. subsidies, requirements for essential health benefits vs. more flexibility in benefit standards, oncology care providers see insurance coverage—and their patients’ access to cancer care—at stake.

Yes, It’s Complicated
The political messaging—not to mention policy minutiae—is difficult to sort through, even for the wonkiest of policy wonks in Washington. The ACA has been plagued with insurer drop outs and significant premium increases for the unsubsidized individual market, but the law has also provided critical patient protections, put an end to discriminatory practices by insurers, and covered 20 million new lives through Medicaid expansion and the health insurance exchanges. Having made ACA repeal their rallying cry for years, Republicans are now trying to find a path forward to make changes to the law. But maintaining those critical (and politically popular) patient protections, preserving essential benefits, and covering more people while also reducing costs for both the system and the patients is far from an easy task.

Preserve Patient Protections
More than ever before, this year on Capitol Hill Day, ACCC members have a critical story to tell about the unique needs of cancer patients and the costs of their treatment. Cancer, in many ways, demonstrates the precise need—and role—for insurance. Cancer diagnoses are inherently unpredictable. Cancer patients can’t plan when they are going to be sick or what kind of insurance they will need to cover their costs. In addition to the personal, emotional, and physical toll a cancer diagnosis takes on individuals and their families, cancer patients need good insurance to protect against the risk of catastrophic treatment costs.

The ACA created critical protections for consumers, including eliminating the ability of insurance companies to discriminate based on a pre-existing condition, like cancer, or to impose lifetime or annual dollar limits on policies. And by providing subsidies to those up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level to purchase insurance, the ACA made progress in closing the disparities gap in accessing cancer care.

Protect Patient Access to Care
In record numbers, ACCC members will set out on March 29 to educate Congress on what proposed changes to the ACA would mean for cancer patients and survivors and their ability to access high quality cancer care in the communities where they live and work. In the context of any ACA repeal and/or replace plan, ACCC members will ask legislators to:

  • Protect access to comprehensive, affordable insurance coverage. This is particularly critical for cancer patients facing high-cost treatments that often turn into chronic, long-term conditions.
  • Preserve critical patient protections, such as the ban on discriminating based on pre-existing conditions, no annual or lifetime limits, guaranteed issue, and allowing dependents to remain on their parents’ plan until age 26.
  • Preserve essential health benefits that require insurers to cover preventive services, like cancer screenings, at minimal or no cost-sharing.
  • Maintain meaningful access to clinical trials.
  • Strengthen patient access to adequate provider networks that include cancer specialists and the full range of services required to provide quality cancer care.
  • Meaningfully engage cancer patient and provider groups in any real effort to repeal and/or replace the ACA.

Beyond coverage and access, ACCC members will also reiterate their commitment to value-based care and any efforts to improve quality, affordability, and access in cancer care. ACCC has long been committed to working with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to achieve true high-value, cost-effective cancer care. ACCC members support the mission and goals of the ACA-created Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI), which has been the subject of recent scrutiny. More than half of the CMMI Oncology Care Model (OCM) participating practices are ACCC members. These forward-thinking practices are dedicating significant time and resources to making this pilot program work.

However, in the wake of last year’s CMMI ill-conceived proposed Part B Drug Payment Model, ACCC members will also strongly encourage Congress to place additional guardrails on CMMI’s authority, including limiting its scope to targeted, voluntary (rather than mandatory) demonstration programs.

ACCC members have a lot to communicate to busy Congressional representatives and staffers this year. But the stories we will share, from the communities in which ACCC members are working on the frontlines of cancer care, will bring home the impact of policy decisions in the clearest, most powerful terms. Now is a critical time to speak up and be heard—for our patients today and those who will become our patients tomorrow. Join us for ACCC Capitol Hill Day. Your story can make a difference.


The ACCC 43rd Annual Meeting, CANCERSCAPE, March 29-31, will provide a 360-degree look at the healthcare landscape from the Democrat and Republican perspectives with insights on what to expect for reimbursement, alternative payment models, drug pricing, quality reporting, and more. Learn more.

ACCC Goes to Washington

By Leah Ralph, ACCC Director of Health Policy

With the transition to a new administration just days away, the Association of Community Cancer Centers (ACCC) this week joined with other leading cancer organizations to speak out for community cancer care providers and the patients they serve. On January 11, the Obama White House, in conjunction with Vice President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot initiative, hosted a morning-long event Making Health Care Better – Community Oncology.

ACCC-Delegation-at-the-White-House-sm

ACCC delegation at the White House

ACCC leadership—representing community providers from practices and cancer programs across the country—contributed to the conversation during moderated panel discussions, and provided real-world community perspectives on addressing disparities in access to prevention, diagnosis, and treatment; advancing clinical trials, new technologies, and innovative models of care; and providing support and survivorship services to patients with cancer. The event capped off a year’s worth of work between the Vice President’s office and oncology stakeholders across the country, including multiple meetings with ACCC members, to advance the priorities of Vice President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot Initiative and a commitment to achieving a decade’s worth of progress in cancer research in five years.  Don Graves, Counselor to the Vice President, thanked the cancer patients and providers in the room for their work to advance the goals of the Cancer Moonshot and, addressing the uncertainty around the future of the Vice President’s initiative, told the audience “the Cancer Moonshot will continue through you.” The Vice President recently announced he would start a nonprofit organization to continue to address the broad – and complex – issues around cancer research and funding. And late last year, Congress passed the 21st Century Cures Act, which provides $1.8 billion for Cancer Moonshot efforts at NIH.

ACCC-on-Capitol Hill-sm

ACCC Advocates Heading to Capitol Hill

In the afternoon, ACCC co-sponsored a Capitol Hill briefing on Innovation and Access in Quality Cancer Care. Addressing the uncertain political environment, Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) highlighted some of the achievements realized by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), while Representative Fred Upton (R-MI) and Representative Diana DeGette (D-CO) described the bipartisan effort behind passage of the 21st Century Cures Act. Advocates were assured that funding provided under the Cures Act will be secure, regardless of the fate of the ACA. Co-sponsoring the briefing along with ACCC were the Cancer Support Community, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the Community Oncology Alliance, McKesson Specialty Health, Sarah Cannon, and The US Oncology Network.

As the U.S. healthcare system continues to grapple with transformative change, sharing the story of cancer care delivery in communities where patients live, work, and vote is critical to helping policymakers and legislators understand the impact of policies, regulations, and legislation. Join ACCC for Capitol Hill Day on March 29, in Washington, D.C., and share your story.  Learn more here.

ACCC Annual Meeting: Five Key Takeaways

by Amanda Patton, ACCC Communications

ACCC 42nd Annual MeetingNearly 500 oncology professionals gathered in Washington, D.C., last week for the 42nd ACCC Annual Meeting, CANCERSCAPE. Throughout sessions centered on policy, value, and quality, attendees heard a recurrent message: Your experience, perspective, and input on the issues of value-based care, quality measures, and outcomes are essential as the healthcare system and oncology transition to the new world of alternative payment models and value-based care.

From ACCC Capitol Hill Day last Wednesday throughout the meeting sessions, attendees were urged to educate policymakers and payers about the real-world processes involved in delivering quality cancer care.

In the meeting’s opening session, Congressman Rick Nolan (MN-D)  called out the vital role ACCC members can play in helping educate legislators and policymakers, “No one can articulate need, challenges, potential to ultimately cure cancer [better] than the people in this room today,” he said.

Can precision medicine be reconciled with value-based care? “Absolutely” said Kavita Patel, MD, MS, of the Brookings Institution.  Oncology already delivers personalized (or precision) medicine through targeted therapies for some cancers, she pointed out. Communicating about the oncology care process so that policymakers understand real-world cancer care delivery is imperative, Patel said. Part of that conversation should aim to help policymakers understand the demanding intuitive thought process that is part of today’s oncology care, along with the tremendous amount of information cancer care providers must keep up with given the pace and variety of emerging therapies. “It’s not writing prescriptions,” she said.

Five Key CANCERSCAPE Takeaways

High-level meeting takeaways that interconnect value, policy, and quality include:

  1. Alignment. For value and quality measures to work in oncology, alignment among payers, providers, and patients is essential.
  2. Put your data to work. Cancer programs and practices are finding ways to harness their data to improve quality patient-centered care and reduce costs. In a presentation on Collaboration Across Specialties to Improve Care and Curb Costs, Matthew Manning, MD,  from Cone Health demonstrated how his program used data to identify “hotspotters,” assess gaps in care, improve outcomes, and reduce costs.
  3. Communicate. Support conversations across silos and among stakeholders. Engage with patients to understand their goals of care and to define value and quality. While value frameworks are generic, “all patients are different” agreed panelists in a Town Hall discussion on Value Framework Tools.
  4. Be proactive. Don’t wait until USP Chapter 800 goes into effect to assess your facilities readiness. Don’t wait until HRSA issues its final 340B mega-regulation. Take steps today to assess your program’s compliance. “Be prepared” was also the message in a Biosimilars Update from Nisha Pherwani, PharmD, BCOP, clinical director of Oncology, Cardinal Health. She urged attendees to:
    • Understand the FDA approval process for biosimilars
    • Provide a concise review to your P&T committee
    • Review the FDA guidances on biosimilars
    • Stay tuned for more on how interchangeability will impact regulations.
  5. Speak up. Oncology providers can best articulate the care they provide and the issues impacting care delivery. Leadership in oncology has to step forward to help define quality and value and inform policy. Work with ACCC to make your voice heard.

This week’s CMS release of a proposed rule designed to test new Medicare Part B drug payment models makes clear the critical need for the oncology community stay on top of what is happening among policymakers in Washington, D.C.  ACCC has voiced strong opposition to CMS’s proposal. Among other concerns, ACCC points to the lack of opportunity for stakeholder input on the development of this proposal.

ACCC urges its members speak up and ask Congress to stop the CMS Medicare Part B Drug Payment Model.  Click here to contact your legislators.

Rep. Nolan Praises Advocacy Efforts of ACCC Members

by Amanda Patton, ACCC Communications

Rep. Richard Nolan opens ACCC 42nd Annual Meeting

Rep. Richard Nolan opens ACCC 42nd Annual Meeting

Congressman Richard “Rick” Nolan (MN-D) opened the ACCC 42nd Annual Meeting on Thursday paying tribute to ACCC membership. “I want to thank you for all that you do,” he said.

“You are part of the team that comes together to be there for people at the most challenging and emotionally difficult and troubling times in their lives. . . Thanks to the dedication and hard work of people like you so much progress is being made in [the fight] against cancer.”

In an ideal transition from ACCC Capitol Hill Day to CANCERSCAPE Annual Meeting sessions focused on policy and key drivers of change, Representative Nolan told attendees coming to Washington is critical, “I know it’s not easy, but it is so important because as a practical matter lending your voices, your knowledge, your perspective is unbelievably important.”

He spoke movingly about the impact of cancer in his own family. Congressman Nolan lost his father to cancer, and an aunt—who was an inspiration for his political career—also died from cancer at age 54.

Last January, he announced that his youngest daughter had been diagnosed with stage 4 non-smoking lung cancer. She is “a high spirited, very determined, and very, very health conscious young woman,” Nolan said. “Thanks to people’s prayers and advances in medical science she’s doing better. She is still with us fighting the good fight.”

His daughter’s struggle inspired Nolan to establish the Congressional Lung Cancer Caucus, along with co-founders Lois Capps (CA-D) and Frank LoBiondo (NJ-R).

Because nearly everyone has someone in their lives who has been touched by cancer, Congressman Nolan is optimistic that “we can find nonpartisan almost unanimous agreement to find better funding for the research needed to end this terrible scourge.”

Advocacy efforts such as ACCC Capitol Hill Day are critical he said. It’s important to tell your story because “no one can articulate need, challenges, potential to ultimately cure cancer [better] than the people in this room today.”

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Stay tuned for Annual Meeting key takeaways.

Advocacy in Action—ACCC Capitol Hill Day

by Amanda Patton, ACCC Communications

ACCC members put advocacy into action yesterday in more than 84 meetings with legislators on Capitol Hill.

Former Senator Norm Coleman addressing ACCC Hill Day

Former Senator Norm Coleman addressing ACCC Hill Day

Starting the day off, participants heard from former Senator Norm Coleman (MN), “The world belongs to those who show up, so thank you for showing up today to make difference.” He urged ACCC members to “Let them know what you’re advocating for is good policy, and you need their help to get it done!”

Nearly 70 ACCC members representing 27 states “showed up” for Hill Day this year. In conversations with legislators throughout the day, they not only advocated for “good policy,” including support for the Cancer Drug Coverage Parity Act (S 1566/HR 2739) and the Planning Actively for Cancer Treatment (PACT) Act (HR 2846). They also shared the story of community cancer care, how their programs are serving patients and their communities, and the challenges they face.

Summing up the experience, ACCC Capitol Hill Day participant Ann Yager, RT (R)(T), Oncology Services Director, Nebraska Medical said, “It’s really about our patients and our ability to care for our patients.”

Throughout the day, participants heard the message: legislators want your help to be informed about the issues affecting your cancer programs, your patients, and your community.

Representative Lois Capps (CA-D)

Representative Lois Capps (CA-D)

During a lunch address to ACCC Hill Day participants, Representative Lois Capps (CA-D), co-sponsor of the PACT Act, spoke about the critical role care planning and coordination play in ensuring patients are supported throughout their treatment.

She also reiterated the importance of helping legislators understand the issues. “A cancer diagnosis is much more than a test result,” she said, [we need to] “educate our colleagues on Capitol Hill” [on the need to support patients through their cancer treatment journey].

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ACCC 42nd Annual Meeting, CANCERSCAPE is underway. Join us today for live stream Town Hall discussion on Value Framework Tools: The Provider Perspective from 12:50 — 1:35 pm EST. Access the Town Hall discussion from the ACCC website.

Oral Parity: When Modern Medicine Outpaces Policy

By Leah Ralph, Director of Health Policy, ACCC

PillsACCC has been a longtime champion of oral parity, the legislative effort to equalize patient cost sharing for intravenous (IV) and oral chemotherapy drugs.

Oral oncolytics can offer a better quality of life for patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment, including less travel time, fewer work absences, often fewer side effects, and the convenience and comfort of at-home administration. For some cancer patients, an oral anti-cancer medication is the only option for treatment. Yet insurance coverage has not kept pace with medical innovation. Outdated insurance benefit designs continue to cover oral medications under the pharmacy benefit, which often means high, burdensome out-of-pocket costs for patients. (Traditional IV chemotherapy is covered under a plan’s medical benefit, resulting in minimal co-pays or no cost for patients.) This coverage disparity creates financial burdens for patients prescribed an oral anti-cancer medicine, leaving them less likely to adhere to treatment and often unable to fill their prescription. The number one reason a patient does not take his or her medication appropriately is cost. According to a 2011 study published in the Journal of Oncology Practice and the American Journal of Managed Care, 10 percent of cancer patients failed to fill their initial prescriptions for oral anticancer medications due to high out-of-pocket costs.

Progress at the State Level

We’ve come a long way in terms of state law. To date, 40 states plus the District of Columbia have passed oral parity legislation. These laws are not a mandate to cover oral chemotherapy, but rather require that if an insurance plan covers chemotherapy treatment, a patient’s out-of-pocket costs must be the same, regardless of how the therapy is administered. As a member of the State Patients Equal Access Coalition (SPEAC), ACCC has partnered with several state oncology societies—including Virginia, West Virginia, and Arizona in recent years—to pass oral parity laws, and this year we’re focusing our efforts on Tennessee and South Carolina. (If you are a provider in either of these states, and you’d like to be an advocate, email ACCC Director of Health Policy, Leah Ralph. ACCC participated in this new SPEAC video that helps to tell the oral parity story from the patient’s perspective.

Why Federal Legislation is Necessary

And even though a majority of states have now passed state-level oral parity legislation, federal legislation is still needed. A federal law would ensure that new cost-sharing restrictions are implemented consistently across the country, and that plans that fall outside state regulation, such as those covered under the federal ERISA law (usually large, multi-state health plans), must comply with the same equitable coverage requirements. In September, an ACCC member spoke at a Congressional briefing on the Cancer Drug Coverage Parity Act of 2015 (S.1566/H.R.2739), helping gain critical momentum to move the bill forward.

In a few weeks, at ACCC 2016 Capitol Hill Day on March 2, ACCC members will be walking the halls of Congress to talk with legislators about the importance of this bill to cancer patients and the providers who care for them.

ACCC encourages members to join our efforts, and continue to monitor opportunities to weigh in with your state and federal legislators. For more on this issue, look for an upcoming article to be published in the March/April Oncology Issues, “Exploring the Issue of Cancer Drug Parity.”

 

 

An Easy—and Empowering—New Year’s Resolution

By Leah Ralph, Director, Health Policy, ACCC

Working-Federal-Government-FeaturedNew Year’s resolutions are the very definition of trope: a common or overused theme. But they don’t have to be. Today I’m asking you to set aside the old standbys of weight loss or more exercise and look at the bigger picture—specifically what you can do to improve the lives of the cancer patients you treat each and every day.

Last year ACCC mobilized members from 23 states and held over 80 meetings with legislators on Capitol Hill about issues of importance to the oncology community. We effected real change. Shortly after our ACCC Hill Day visits, Congress passed a permanent repeal to the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula, guaranteeing predictable physician payment rates and setting in motion a wave of Medicare reimbursement reforms. Our voices made a difference!

This year, we’re growing our annual Capitol Hill Day program and making some exciting changes: more comprehensive training, more face time with legislators, and, most important a greater focus on helping you tell your community’s story—the one that your legislators most want to hear. What’s going on in your home town? What’s keeping you up at night? What are the stressors that are having a negative impact on your cancer patients?

So whether you’ve attended a previous ACCC Capitol Hill Day or you’re an “advocacy newbie,” here are three solid reasons to make the ACCC 2016 Capitol Hill Day your New Year’s Resolution:

  1. More comprehensive training. The ACCC policy team will host webinars and conference calls to prepare for your congressional meetings. We’re planning a comprehensive training and reception for Tuesday, March 1, plus an additional advocacy review on the morning of Hill Day, Wednesday, March 2.
  2. More face-time with legislators. Gather for lunch with your ACCC colleagues and congressional members to discuss key issues that impact your program, such as reimbursement for supportive care services, drug costs, staffing shortages, and how excessive data collection and reporting is cutting into the time you can spend on direct patient care.
  3. Less focus on specific bill numbers. You don’t need to be a “policy expert” or familiar with specific legislation in 2016. It’s a chance to share YOUR STORY so lawmakers understand how policy impacts oncology care in YOUR COMMUNITY. (Now, if you want bill numbers, we’ll have those too.)

Policymakers rely on healthcare providers—not policy staff—to provide real-world perspectives on policy issues that matter. As the leading national multi-site, multidisciplinary organization, ACCC is uniquely positioned to serve as a resource. This is our value to legislators. The diversity and sophistication of our membership requires a nuanced, balanced approach to policy challenges—and we stand ready to offer insights on how cancer care is delivered today.

As our experts, we invite you to come to Washington, D.C., to do what you do best. Talk about your programs, your processes, and most importantly your patients. Our annual Capitol Hill day is an important and rewarding opportunity to advocate for policy change. Resolve to attend ACCC Capitol Hill Day 2016, and help to put the voice of the cancer care team and cancer patient at the center of policy decisions. Learn more at accc-cancer.org/HillDay.

Transformation ⇒ From Volume to Value

Centers_for_Medicare_and_Medicaid_Services_logoBy Leah Ralph, Manager, Provider Economics and Public Policy, ACCC

This week the CMS Innovation Center announced the launch of the Oncology Care Model—the agency’s newest payment and service delivery model, described as a multi-payer, oncology practitioner-focused model designed to improve the quality of cancer care while lowering cost.

According to the CMS announcement, key facets of the model include:

  • Episode-based payment that targets chemotherapy and related care during a six-month period following the start of chemotherapy treatment.
  • Multi-payer design with Medicare fee-for-service and other payers working in tandem to promote care redesign for oncology patients.
  • Requiring physician practices to engage in practice transformation to improve quality and coordination of care.

This is the latest signal that the shift from volume-based reimbursement to payment for value and quality is gaining momentum. The interest in moving healthcare payment away from a system that incentivizes quantity has been reflected in every major healthcare law in recent years—from the Medicare Modernization Act (MMA) in 2003 to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010.

In fact, the ACA created the $10 billion Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) with the sole aim of developing and testing innovative ways to pay providers. And on Feb. 12 the Innovation Center provided its first model for oncology care.

The launch of this model is not unexpected given that in January 2015, for the first time in Medicare’s history, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced explicit goals for tying Medicare payments to alternative payment models and value-based payments. According to the HHS timeline, 30 percent of all fee-for-service (FFS) Medicare payments will be tied to alternative payment models by 2016—including, but not limited to, Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), medical homes, and bundled payments for episodes of care. By 2018, 50 percent of payments will be tied to these models. CMS also set a goal of tying 85 percent of traditional Medicare payments to quality or value by 2016 and 90 percent by 2018 through such programs as the Hospital Value Based Purchasing or Hospital Readmissions Reduction programs.

Ambitious Goals

The initial benchmark of 2016 sets a laudable, but ambitious, goal. Certainly the announcement signals the Obama Administration is making this issue a priority, and we can expect to see an accelerated push to transition Medicare payments and, in turn, private payers.

This shift is a huge undertaking that will not only affect payments, but fundamentally change incentives for how providers deliver care. Implementation will take time, and will require the right balance of forward momentum and important safeguards to ensure that patients continue to receive the most appropriate, quality care. As HHS moves full steam ahead, the provider community must speak up and urge policymakers to:

  • continue to work to find consensus on appropriate quality measures,
  • establish a sound, fair methodology for calculating financial benchmarks and risk adjustment, and
  • allow providers the time, resources, and flexibility they need to implement these new payment models.

The just-announced Oncology Care Model (OCM) will test the bundling of payments for chemotherapy administration. But with other models, such as the Medicare Shared Savings Program (Medicare ACOs) that are primary care focused, it’s still unclear how oncologists will be included or even participate. Caring for cancer patients is complex and often expensive, leaving inherent challenges in how to account for cancer care in alternative models. How will high-cost drugs and innovative therapies be treated in the construct of an ACO? Will high-cost cancer patients be included in the financial benchmark? What is oncology’s role in shared risk and savings? ACCC and other organizations are continuing to work with CMS to answer these questions.

Call to Action

ACCC encourages the provider community to remain informed and active participants in the policy-making dialogue to ensure that we do, in fact, achieve meaningful, realistic payment reform. One of the best ways to get engaged is meeting with your legislators at ACCC’s upcoming Capitol Hill Day on March 16. The next day, at ACCC’s Annual Meeting, CANCERSCAPE on March 17, we’ll be hearing from Ron Kline, MD, Medical Officer with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation – an author of the Oncology Care Model. Now is the time to come to Washington D.C. – get your questions answered and voices heard at a pivotal moment for oncology care. Join us!

 

Ringing in the New Year

US Capitolby Leah Ralph, Manager, Provider Economics and Public Policy, ACCC

The last few months have brought big changes to Washington, D.C. We will ring in the New Year with both chambers of Congress under GOP control, which means the parties are reorganizing and, importantly, the legislative agenda is shifting. While it’s still anyone’s guess whether new leadership will mean less political infighting in 2015, issues like trade, energy, and tax reform are early contenders for potential areas of compromise next year.

The ACA (Affordable Care Act) will also make the top of the political agenda: starting in January, you can count on Republicans to look for every opportunity to take the legs out from under President Obama’s signature achievement. Although full repeal is unlikely, as it would face an all-but-guaranteed presidential veto, expect the new majority to focus their efforts on introducing a series of stand-alone bills targeting the most unpopular provisions of the law.

Predicting the fate of non-ACA healthcare legislation is a tougher call. On the one hand, healthcare fatigue still looms large among legislators, making issues like a long-term fix to the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR), oral parity, and sequestration more of an uphill climb. On the other hand, new leadership, a renewed vow to work across the aisle, and public dissatisfaction with the status quo are bringing new energy to Congress.

Will 2015 Bring a Permanent SGR Fix?

In 2014 we saw what was arguably the best opportunity in years to finally fix the fundamentally flawed SGR formula. Congress came to agreement on a bipartisan bill that had a relatively low price tag, but in the end could not reach consensus on how to pay for the fix. As a result, the bill never came to a vote and will need to be reintroduced in the new Congress. Still the fact that Congress achieved consensus on policy is a promising sign for 2015. We have now weathered seventeen (17!) “doc fix” patches that, if added together, cost far more than the comprehensive approach lawmakers are considering today. This year’s ACCC Capitol Hill Day is scheduled for March 16, so we will be visiting with our legislators just weeks before the current “doc fix” expires on March 31.

Will We See Federal Oral Parity Legislation?

Passing a national oral parity law continues to be a top priority for ACCC membership. On the state level, oral parity efforts are gaining momentum. To date, 34 states and D.C. have enacted oral parity laws, and several other states are ramping up their grassroots efforts for 2015. Given that an estimated 25 to 35 percent of all oncology therapies in the pipeline will available only in pill form, the need for comprehensive, federal oral parity legislation is increasingly critical to patient access. While state-level legislation remains important, lawmakers need to understand that federal legislation would ensure consistency in oral parity laws across the country and would include plans that fall outside the purview of state regulation.

Will We See Any Relief from the Sequester?

Last year, legislation to exempt cancer drugs from the Medicare sequester gained more than 100 cosponsors. ACCC will be advocating for this legislation to be reintroduced in 2015.

As you can see, 2015 is the year to make your voice heard! Join us for Capitol Hill Day on March 16, and stay for the ACCC 41st Annual Meeting, CANCERSCAPE, which will follow March 17–18 in Crystal City, Va. Read our agenda and register today!

If you have additional questions, or would like to get involved with ACCC advocacy, please contact me at lralph@accc-cancer.org.