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News and Publications

ASTRO Refresher Course reg, CMS updates MPFS rates, new RO-ILS peer review report

January 13, 2021


Registration now open for 2021 ASTRO Annual Refresher Course
The ASTRO Annual Refresher Course, an interactive virtual conference, will take place March 19-21, 2021. Join your colleagues at this practical meeting that provides a comprehensive review of the latest treatment methods and core competencies for the major disease sites, with a look at the emerging trends and technologies that may impact daily practice. The format combines recorded sessions with Live Q&A, and the program includes expert breakout sessions and a networking happy hour for all attendees. Register by February 17 to take advantage of early bird rates.


CMS updates 2021 MPFS rates based on COVID-19 emergency relief package, extends PHE
CMS has announced an update to the 2021 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (MPFS) in response to passage of the COVID-19 emergency relief package, including significant improvements for radiation oncology codes. The MPFS was expected to experience a 10.2% reduction in payment rates due to budget neutrality requirements related to Evaluation and Management code valuation changes; however, advocacy by ASTRO and others ameliorated that cut through the infusion of $3 billion into the MPFS, which results in a 3.75% increase in payments across all services. The 5% cut anticipated for radiation oncology services is now an estimated 1% increase due to the passage of the bill, which also included an extension of the moratorium on the 2% sequester through March 2021. ASTRO has analyzed the impact of the MPFS change on key radiation oncology codes. Future MPFS rate updates may be issued, and ASTRO will provide updates as more information becomes available. Additionally, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has extended the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency for an additional 90 days, through April 21, 2021. More information can be found in What’s Happening in Washington.


2021 ASTRO Coding Resource is now available for purchase

The 2021 ASTRO Radiation Oncology Coding Resource is now available for purchase. You can purchase the bundle, print and eBook, or just the eBook on the ASTRO webpage. For members who have pre-ordered the Coding Resource eBook, please log in to your MyASTRO account to access your product. The 2021 edition includes updated language on the E/M changes, RO Model and CMS final rules, and much more.

MACs begin repayment of incorrect 3-D CRT-related denials
In response to ASTRO advocacy efforts, the National Correct Coding Initiative (NCCI) rescinded the inappropriate procedure to procedure (PTP) edits for code pairs 77295/77280, 77295/77285 and 77295/77290. Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs) across the country used this as their rationale to deny simulation and continuing medical physics services when billed with 3-D radiotherapy plans. ASTRO reached out to all MACs for details on their plans to reprocess incorrectly denied claims and remit payments to practices. For more information on your MAC’s plans, read What’s Happening in Washington.


RO-ILS themed report: Peer Review
The latest RO-ILS® themed report, written by the Radiation Oncology Healthcare Advisory Council (RO-HAC), has been released. Focusing on various topic areas, themed reports transcend the entire RO-ILS database. The Peer Review Themed Report contains five case examples and five mitigation strategies to limit ineffective and inadequate peer review. Contact RO-ILS staff to learn more about RO-ILS and how to enroll.


New SA-CME course on gynecological cancer available on ASTRO Academy
In recognition of January's being Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, ASTRO has published a new SA-CME course, available on the ASTRO Academy, on the topic of gynecologic cancer. New Patient-focused Paradigms in Gynecologic Cancer – 2020 Annual Meeting comprises a collection of multidisciplinary experts providing updates on research that has helped redefine practice paradigms for patient-focused individualized care in gynecological cancers. Specifically, the course addresses learning objectives for sexual health’s impact on quality of life after radiation therapy, treatment planning and image-guidance techniques in brachytherapy for cervical cancer and radiation therapy’s role in the treatment of oligometastatic disease for gynecological cancers.


APEx payment option extended
Considering the financial effects of the ongoing public health emergency, ASTRO has extended the APEx – Accreditation Program for Excellence® partial payment option into 2021. Practices seeking accreditation through APEx have the option to pay the all-inclusive fee in two parts: half upon submission of the application and the balance due before finalizing the facility visit. Find out more information on how your facility can earn APEx accreditation by contacting APEx staff or visiting APEx on the ASTRO website.


New patient story on RTAnswers.org
New patient stories have been posted to the RTAnswers website, including one from active-duty military officer David Goff, who was diagnosed with stage III-C colon cancer in 2018. He documents his cancer journey from the quest for a diagnosis to successful treatment ― which included chemotherapy and radiation therapy ― to his recommendations to not “go it alone.” The Patient Stories webpage offers narratives shared by cancer survivors and their caregivers to provide support and inspiration for others fighting cancer and to help communicate the importance of access to treatment and quality care. ASTRO encourages all members to share this valuable resource with your patients.


ASTRO at #GI21 this month
The GI Cancers Symposium, co-sponsored by ASTRO, is being held virtually January 15-17. Look for GI cancer resources from RTAnswers and accreditation information from APEx® at our online exhibit booth. Learn more about the symposium and register now.