One year ago, ASCO was engaged in an all too familiar exercise: working around the clock to prevent scheduled cuts in Medicare physician payments. If implemented, these cuts would have reduced access to care for many older and disabled Americans. Congress responded with another patch, or temporary fix to avert the harmful cuts.
This has been a steady pattern since 2002, as Congress has had to step in numerous times to avert cuts resulting from the Sustainable Growth Rate—a formula that severely underestimates the costs of treating Medicare patients. Unless Congress steps in again, the formula will result in a 27.4 percent cut to reimbursement rates for 2012. President Obama has proposed to freeze payments at 2011 levels for two years to allow for development of a permanent fix.
A significant cut to Medicare payments as a result of the SGR would create barriers to care for cancer patients by forcing many community-based oncology practices—already grappling with previous Medicare cuts and increased administrative burdens—to limit their services or close altogether.
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