ASTRO opposes proposed CMS payment cuts in letter

September 19, 2012

The American Society for Radiation Oncology has submitted a letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services opposing proposed policy changes for calendar year 2013 that would cut nearly $300 million for cancer treatment.

The American Society for Radiation Oncology has submitted a letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services opposing proposed policy changes for calendar year 2013 that would cut nearly $300 million for cancer treatment.

The proposed rule, published in the Federal Register on July 30, would revise several reimbursement payment policies and rates for services furnished under the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (MPFS) as of Jan. 1, 2013.

Among the proposed cuts are a reduction in payment for the delivery of intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) by 40% and for stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) by 28% due to changes in the assumed treatment times. ASTRO’s Sept. 4 comment letter to CMS stresses the need for sound data and a rigorous analytical methodology, rather than reliance on patient education materials, for determining reimbursement rates for physician services.

"The proposed rule would result in an overall 15% reduction in payment for radiation oncology services, with free-standing centers hit harder with an overall 19% cut. The level of cuts aimed at radiation oncology is double that of any other specialty," ASTRO CEO Laura I. Thevenot wrote in the letter.

"Cuts of this magnitude will harm cancer care, particularly in rural areas, and could lead many treatment centers to close their practices," Thevenot added.

When Medicare announced the proposed cuts, ASTRO conducted an online survey of its members to determine the possible effects of the cuts. According to nearly 600 individual survey responses from July 7 to July 11, the proposed cuts could severely impact community-based cancer care nationwide. Respondents indicated that they may limit access to care for Medicare patients, close or consolidate practices, delay or not purchase state-of-the-art equipment, and/or lay-off or reduce staffing, particularly at practices in rural communities.

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