Health Care Reform and Cancer Care Disparities

Health Care Reform and Cancer Care Disparities

Beverly Moy, MD

Aug 02, 2011
Yesterday, the Journal of Clinical Oncology released an ASCO Policy Statement addressing the challenges and opportunities in U.S. health care reform to reduce cancer care disparities. Developing this statement was a hugely collaborative effort between ASCO’s Health Disparities Advisory Group and Government Relations Committee. I am honored to serve as this year’s Chair of the Health Disparities Advisory Group and to have led the team in developing this policy statement. The purpose of this statement is a call to action for the entire ASCO membership and for policymakers to join together and demand implementation of the provisions of the health care reform law that have the potential to reduce cancer care disparities. Ensuring access to quality cancer care for all individuals with cancer is paramount. Among our most important recommendations going forward is to stop cuts to Medicare reimbursement.

The promise of health care reform remains in tremendous jeopardy given our current political environment. I write this blog post just as the U.S. Senate passed the bill to raise the national debt ceiling and just before President Obama signs this bill into law. While access to cancer care is temporarily protected by Congress, this protection is only temporary. Under the agreement to raise the debt ceiling, a congressional committee is charged with examining Medicare spending as it looks for ways to protect the program’s solvency. This committee could potentially decide on future Medicare cuts. Most likely, the savings would come from paying doctors and hospitals less for treating Medicare patients.

I urge the entire ASCO membership to be aware of these issues. Read the ASCO Policy Statement. Read the “ASCO in Action” section of Speak to your representatives. The promise of health care reform depends on our commitment to the cause of ensuring access to quality cancer care to all individuals with cancer, especially our most vulnerable patients. I’d be interested in hearing opinions and comments from the ASCO membership.


The ideas and opinions expressed on the ASCO Connection Blogs do not necessarily reflect those of ASCO. None of the information posted on is intended as medical, legal, or business advice, or advice about reimbursement for health care services. The mention of any product, service, company, therapy or physician practice on does not constitute an endorsement of any kind by ASCO. ASCO assumes no responsibility for any injury or damage to persons or property arising out of or related to any use of the material contained in, posted on, or linked to this site, or any errors or omissions.


Michael Goldstein, MD, FASCO

Aug, 07 2011 4:22 PM

After reading your blog, I examined the comprehensive policy statement as published in the current issue of JCO. It certainly enumerates the provisions of the PPACA that could be implemented to reduce disparities in cancer care. However ASCO has issued no plan of action to achieve this goal. It is insufficient to only say "stop cuts to Medicare reimbursement". It is apparent from the political debate and existing economic conditions that cuts to Medicare are on the horizon and probably unavoidable. ASCO as the world's leading oncology society bears responsibility to be at the forefront of change and to help define the most important uses of limited resources. Nobody will argue with the theory of providing access and quality cancer care to all, or with the lofty goal of reducing the burden of suffering for those who lack resources or are considered for various reasons to be ‘underprivileged’. I think it is time for ASCO to propose bold steps towards achieving the stated goals, such as a strong endorsement of comparative effectiveness research. Such studies should be a prominent part of each annual meeting and deserve a separate section in JCO. Eliminating waste should allow health care dollars to be diverted to fund the research and provide the care which is of the greatest benefit to all patients, irrespective of ethnicity, language or ability to pay.

Joseph Kash, MD

Aug, 16 2011 6:15 PM

There is a finite government healthcare pie.  We cannot just argue that our piece of the pie should not be cut.  We need to justify why cutting someone elses piece of the pie is more justified than cutting our piece.  The government pie will be cut whether we like it or not.  If not us then someone else.  If we win then someone else loses.

Back to Top