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ASCO Works to Fix Sustainable Growth Rate

Dec 20, 2011

At the end of 2011, solving Medicare’s perennial “doc fix” continued to challenge the oncology community with the inability of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (the “supercommittee”) to reach an agreement last November. A significant cut to Medicare payments as a result of the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) would create barriers to care for patients with cancer by forcing many community-based oncology practices—already grappling with previous Medicare cuts and increased administrative burdens—to limit their services or close altogether. The supercommittee had considered repealing the SGR formula as part of a deficit-reduction deal, but now Congress will need to continue patching the current formula to avert drastic cuts to physician payments.

ASCO has worked for many years to bring attention to the SGR problem and has repeatedly called on Congress to replace the flawed SGR formula with a system that rewards quality care and reimburses for the many currently unpaid or underpaid services that oncology practices provide. In 2011, ASCO worked nonstop on Capitol Hill to address SGR reform by sending letters to the supercommittee, holding meetings with ASCO’s Clinical Practice and Government Relations Committees and members of Congress, joining 45 physician groups to ask the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission to permanently repeal the SGR, and proposing that Congress adopt ASCO’s Quality Oncology Practice Initiative to promote and reward evidence-based medicine (see “ASCO in Action” article).

“ASCO recognizes that the Medicare payment system is broken,” said ASCO CEO Allen S. Lichter, MD. “In 2012, ASCO will continue its tireless fight for reform of the payment system. The Society stands ready to work with Congress to develop a new system that would fairly and adequately reimburse oncologists for all of the services needed to treat Medicare patients with cancer.”

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