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ASTRO applauds congressional leaders for extending the radiation oncology payment freeze

ARLINGTON, Va., February 9, 2018

The American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) applauds congressional leaders for today’s passage of bipartisan legislation to freeze payment rates for key radiation oncology services delivered in freestanding clinics through the end of 2019. ASTRO extensively lobbied Congress for the bill and led radiation oncology stakeholder efforts to secure the one-year freeze. The legislation, which also prevents a government shutdown and increases cancer research funding, has passed both the House and Senate, and will now head to the President's desk for his signature.

Under the Patient Access to Medicare Protection Act (PAMPA) of 2015, rates for radiation treatment delivery and image guidance outside of hospital-based departments were frozen at 2016 levels for 2017 and 2018. PAMPA and its associated rates were set to expire December 31, 2018, but congressional action has ensured that the rates will remain stable through December 31, 2019. According to the Congressional Budget Office, extending the radiation oncology payment freeze does not increase Medicare spending. 

ASTRO worked on a bipartisan basis with congressional leaders to secure the one-year freeze. ASTRO Chair Brian D. Kavanagh, MD, MPH, FASTRO, testified to Congress on November 8, 2017, and noted that ASTRO was concerned that the expiration of PAMPA without a plan for stable payments and an alternative payment model could threaten the viability of many cancer centers. "A radiation oncology alternative payment model will allow ASTRO members to participate in value-based payment and bring long-term payment stability, but we need more time to achieve that goal," said Dr. Kavanagh.

"This extension of PAMPA gives us the opportunity to continue to collaborate with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to develop and implement a payment model. We are grateful to our congressional champions for continuing to support the critical role radiation therapy plays in cancer treatment for the more than one million patients each year who will access radiation therapies to cure or palliate their disease," Dr. Kavanagh concluded.

ASTRO commends the bipartisan leadership of the House and Senate, particularly the House Ways and Means Committee, House Energy and Commerce Committee and Senate Finance Committee, as well as Senator Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Representative Devin Nunes (R-C.A.), Representative Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) and many other radiation oncology champions on Capitol Hill.

ASTRO looks forward to working closely and expeditiously with the CMS to develop and implement a radiation oncology alternative payment model and secure stable payments for treatment delivery and image guidance codes.

The American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) is the world’s largest radiation oncology society, with more than 10,000 members who are physicians, nurses, biologists, physicists, radiation therapists, dosimetrists and other health care professionals who specialize in treating patients with radiation therapies. The Society is dedicated to improving patient care through professional education and training, support for clinical practice and health policy standards, advancement of science and research, and advocacy. ASTRO publishes three peer-reviewed journals, the International Journal of Radiation Oncology • Biology • Physics (redjournal.org), Practical Radiation Oncology (practicalradonc.org) and Advances in Radiation Oncology (advancesradonc.org); developed and maintains an extensive patient website, RT Answers (rtanswers.org); and created the Radiation Oncology Institute (roinstitute.org), a nonprofit foundation to support research and education efforts around the world that enhance and confirm the critical role of radiation therapy in improving cancer treatment. To learn more about ASTRO, visitwww.astro.org, sign up to receive our news and follow us on our blog, Facebook and Twitter.