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ASTRO calls on Congress to reduce proposed radiation therapy payment cuts

by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | July 28, 2021
Rad Oncology

It recommends that Medicare strongly consider revising the discount factor to 3% as legislatively required for Medicare Advanced Alternative Payment Models, rather than the excess discounting in the current proposed rule.

Aside from cuts and the RO model, physicians during the meeting brought up the challenges of prior authorization. Highest in radiation oncology, such a policy, they say creates anxiety, delays and harms patients, with an August 2020 ASTRO survey finding that 69% of radiation oncologists felt the burden has worsened during the pandemic, and that 64% saw an increase in cancer treatment delays caused by prior authorization. "The majority of patients are now delayed over two weeks for a fairly routine denial and appeal process," said one survey respondent.

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Radiation oncologists asked lawmakers to support the bipartisan Improving Seniors’ Timely Access to Care Act of 2021 to create more transparency and oversight of the prior authorization process and reduce delays in cancer treatment. They also asked for an increase in federal support of cancer research at the National Institute of Health and the National Cancer Institute to offset the impact of the pandemic. ASTRO recently asked the Biden Administration for substantial and sustainable funding for the new Advanced Research Projects Agency-Health (ARPA-H) to reach Biden’s goal of “ending cancer as we know it” and enhance NIH and NCI research.

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