Widespread staff shortages exacerbate pressures facing radiation oncology clinics; ASTRO Advocacy Day calls for action

Press releases may be edited for formatting or style | May 23, 2023 Rad Oncology

“At a total cost to Medicare of less than what is spent on just three cancer drugs, radiation oncology provides incredible value to beneficiaries and taxpayers. Yet, a decade of relentless Medicare cuts and rapidly increasing costs are pushing community-based clinics to the breaking point. Radiation oncologists are asking lawmakers to support our fight against any new cuts, and to join us in our efforts to ensure stability, access, value and equity in cancer care,” said Geraldine M. Jacobson, MD, MBA, MPH, FASTRO, Chair of the ASTRO Board of Directors. ASTRO is developing a new payment system for radiation oncology that will advance equity, improve quality and reduce costs, as well as protect access to radiation therapy by supporting innovation and ensuring payments keep pace with inflation.

For more information, view our one-pager on Medicare payment reform.

2. Ensure patients and radiation oncologists make care decisions, not insurance companies.

Restrictive prior authorization tactics lead to unnecessary delays, anxiety and harm for people with cancer, and radiation oncology faces the most prior authorization hurdles of any medical specialty. Nine in 10 radiation oncology practice leaders say their patients are forced to wait for their radiation therapy treatment due to provider roadblocks inherent to the prior authorization process, and a majority say the average delay lasts one week or even longer. “Prior authorization for proven treatments ultimately causes more harm than good by squandering valuable time and resources, which negatively impacts patient outcomes,” said Dr. Jacobson.

ASTRO recently applauded policy changes that are an important first step to increase transparency in prior authorization for Medicare Advantage, and radiation oncologists are now asking Congress to hold insurers accountable for following these new requirements. They also are encouraging support for bipartisan congressional letters led by Representatives Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), Mike Kelly (R-Penn.), Ami Bera, MD (D-Calif.) and Larry Bucshon, MD (R-Ind.), and Senators Roger Marshall, MD, (R-Kan.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) and John Thune (R-S.D.) urging additional Medicare Advantage policy changes that will make the process less burdensome and more transparent, such as streamlining the approval process and establishing determination timelines.

For more information, view our one-pager on prior authorization.

3. Increase federal investments in cancer research

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