News and Publications

RO clinics may be able to give vaccines; ASTRO discusses RO Model with CMMI; volunteer by Friday

March 31, 2021

Radiation oncology clinics may be eligible to provide COVID-19 vaccines to their patients
The federal government is providing a pathway for states and territories to expand and support their vaccination workforce to include currently licensed/certified health professionals, health professionals who were previously active or recently retired and health care students. Public health experts indicate that patient access to the vaccine in clinics where they are currently seeking care overcomes delays and hesitancy. To find out if you are eligible to become part of the expanded vaccine workforce and support your community’s vaccination efforts, contact your state or territory Emergency System for Advance Registration of Volunteer Health Professionals (ESAR-VHP) program. Also, the CDC has new materials for medical centers, clinics, pharmacies and clinicians to use or adapt as a way to build confidence about COVID-19 vaccination among your health care teams, staff and patients.

ASTRO leaders discuss RO Model with new CMMI director
ASTRO leaders met on March 30 with Elizabeth Fowler, the newly appointed director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI), to discuss ways to fix the Radiation Oncology Alternative Payment Model (RO Model). As CMMI considers additional rulemaking on the model, ASTRO pointed out serious flaws in the payment methodology and compliance burden that make the model untenable for practices without significant reforms. The meeting follows a radiation oncology community joint letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services outlining suggested changes to the model. On March 30, ASTRO also joined a coalition of cancer patient advocates recommending similar changes to the RO Model to protect access to care. ASTRO will continue advocating with federal agencies and lawmakers to ensure a better balanced RO Model prior to its January 1, 2022, start date. For more information, please see What’s Happening in Washington.

ASTRO call for volunteers for committee service closes Friday
ASTRO is accepting volunteers interested in serving on ASTRO committees/subcommittees through this Friday, April 2, for the Society year beginning October 26, 2021. To be considered for service, please visit the Call for Committee Volunteers online, where you may select up to two committees in order of preference. Volunteers who are selected to serve will be notified no later than August 6, 2021. To assist ASTRO leadership in making appropriate committee appointments, please complete or update your Statement of Disclosure.

More than 4 million articles from ASTRO Journals downloaded in 2020
ASTRO’s suite of journals was more popular than ever in 2020, earning a staggering 4,003,612 downloads from Elsevier sites alone. Downloads for 2020 outpaced 2019 by nearly 1 million. Read articles from the Red Journal, Practical Radiation Oncology and Advances in Radiation Oncology online, and be sure to submit your papers to one of our in-demand journals today!

3-D CRT related denials persist for some practices
In December 2020, the National Correct Coding Initiative informed ASTRO that inappropriate procedure to procedure (PTP) edits for code pairs 77295/77280, 77295/77285 and 77295/77290 would be rescinded. Unfortunately, practices have informed ASTRO that Medicare Administrative Contractors continue to issue denials and have yet to begin repayment for improper denials. ASTRO is aware that there is conflicting information listed on the CMS website and has asked the Agency to clarify the status of the PTP edits. For more information, see What’s Happening in Washington.

Bill to suspend Medicare payment cuts puts pause on Medicare claims
The Senate passed a bill that would stop, until December 31, the resumption of 2% Medicare sequestration cuts; the bill now moves back to the House for a vote. The bill originally passed the House with a provision to hold the recent COVID-19 relief package exempt from statutory pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) requirements, which was ultimately removed by the Senate. The House will vote on the amended bill when representatives return from recess in mid-April. In anticipation of the bill’s passage, CMS has instructed all Medicare Administrative Contractors to suspend processing of claims dated April 1, 2021, and later. The Agency’s instruction is intended to reduce disruption and administrative burden to practices. For more, see What’s Happening in Washington.

Ask your representative in Congress to support increased funding for NCI
Increasing investments in cancer research is critical to improving patient outcomes through innovative cancer treatments and growing the research industry. You can help the push for increased research funding by asking your representative to sign onto a letter calling for more funding for the National Cancer Institute. The bipartisan letter, led by U.S. Reps. Brian Higgins (D-NY) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), urges their colleagues in Congress to provide at least $7.609 billion in overall funding for NCI in fiscal year 2022. Visit our Advocacy Action Center to send your representative a message right now and encourage their support for cancer patients, researchers and providers by supporting increased cancer research funding.

Connect with the ASTRO Student Community on ROhub
Students, graduate students and PGY-1: did you know that ASTRO has a community for you on the ROhub? This community is a place for you to connect with one another, network, explore ideas and exchange knowledge. You can post questions, discuss challenges, interact with ASTRO leadership and staff and more. The Executive Committee members of the Association of Residents in Radiation Oncology are also members of this community and are available as resources, sharing valuable input to conversations taking place in the Student Community. Visit this community today.

SoFi member benefit for student, personal loans
ASTRO has partnered with SoFi to help members get great rates on new and existing loans. SoFi offers members special discounts on student loan refinancing and personal loans through SoFi.com/ASTRO. SoFi evaluates borrowers holistically to offer low rates that may ultimately save borrowers thousands. ASTRO members can check their rate at the ASTRO member link to see how much they can save on both student and personal loans.