FOR INFORMATION CONTACT:
Matthew Farber, Director
Provider Economics & Public Policy
Association of Community Cancer Centers
301.984.9496 ext 221
For Immediate Release: April 11, 2014
The Association of Community Cancer Centers (ACCC) Concerned with Release of Medicare Payment Data
ROCKVILLE, Md.—The Association of Community Cancer Centers (ACCC) is troubled by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS’s) decision this week to release information related to physician payments from the Medicare program. ACCC fully supports transparency in healthcare and has long advocated for patient access to quality comprehensive cancer care. However, CMS’s release of these data—without context and additional information to offer a complete picture of how these payments are used in the treatment of cancer—is more of a disservice to the public than a service.
Cancer care is incredibly complex and often high cost. Releasing information that simply states that a particular physician billed Medicare for a certain amount of services does not tell the full story about the work being done to treat patients with cancer.
Unlike many other specialties, cancer treatment involves very costly anti-cancer drugs. A large proportion of the money that is billed to Medicare is immediately returned to drug manufacturers and distributors to pay for high-cost cancer treatments, including chemotherapy, biologics, and other needed medications. ACCC works diligently to inform key decision makers and members of the public about the true nature of the business of oncology care, but the release of these partial data by CMS will make that effort more difficult.
In addition, ACCC is concerned that physicians were not given the chance to review this data to ensure accuracy before its release. Later this year, more information about payments to physicians will be released pursuant to the sunshine section of the Affordable Care Act. As a part of that release, physicians will have the opportunity to review data to ensure accuracy. Given that CMS has allowed for a review period in this instance, the lack of the same opportunity for these just-released data is concerning.
ACCC remains supportive of more transparency in the Medicare program. Increasing transparency will lead to reducing fraud and abuse of the Medicare system, which is an important goal that ACCC commends. However, the CMS release of this information, without context and without giving the public an opportunity to understand the full picture, will not help patients in attempts to use these data to learn more about providers. Much like the release of hospital cost data last year, these numbers are only one piece of the puzzle and, taken alone, not a piece that is overly helpful to patients.
ACCC looks forward to working with CMS to correct any inaccuracies that may exist within the data, and also to encourage the agency to release a fuller picture of the business of oncology so as to truly increase usable transparency within the Medicare system. To do otherwise will not be helpful to cancer patients, their families, and the public.