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For Immediate Release: October 14, 2005
Association of Community Cancer Centers Asks that OIG's Conclusions Not Overshadow Need to Enhance Quality Patient Care
ROCKVILLE, Md.—The Office of Inspector General (OIG) has publicly released its preliminary assessment of the Demonstration of Improved Quality of Care for Cancer Patients Undergoing Chemotherapy. The findings highlight several concerns about and skepticism of the demonstration project, which reimburses physicians for assessing quality of life measures, specifically nausea and/or vomiting, pain, and fatigue. The Association of Community Cancer Centers (ACCC) believes it is imperative that comprehensive payments for oncology services be maintained. ACCC urges the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to continue the demonstration project but revise it to take the OIG’s concerns into account and improve the quality of the data collected.
"Quality of life for our patients is very important; physicians use many indicators to determine changes in patient treatment options and additional supportive care," said ACCC member Tom Gallo, Executive Director, Virginia Cancer Institute in Richmond, Va.
ACCC believes that comprehensive payments for oncology services are threatened given the 4.3 percent cut projected for all physician services in 2006 and the recent models showing that projected funding reductions for cancer care are likely to be three times greater than anticipated when the Medicare Modernization Act was enacted in 2003. Indeed, 39 Senators supported the continuation of the demonstration project through the end of 2006 in a letter sent to President Bush in June 2005.
At the inception of the demonstration, CMS acknowledged the difficulty in establishing broad quality measures for cancer care, because treatment varies according to the type, stage and grade of the cancer.
"Given the complexities of capturing quality measures, the demonstration is just that, a beginning, a real opportunity to develop and refine indicators that will ultimately result in more effective ways to pay physicians that help them improve quality for the care they provide to Medicare beneficiaries," said Deborah Walter, ACCC Senior Director, Policy and Government Affairs. “Much of the payment inconsistencies no doubt stem from a lack of clear guidance that can easily be more clearly defined,” she added.
ACCC looks forward to continue working with CMS, Congress, and other stakeholders to find an effective approach to help doctors and the patients they treat. ACCC firmly supports the extension and potential expansion of the demonstration project in 2006 to ensure that beneficiaries have access to needed anticancer therapies.