Community Oncology Town Hall Explores Payment Reform

Posted June 12, 2013

A first-ever community oncology town hall on physician payment reform, during which nearly 500 ASCO members and others learned about and provided feedback on the ever-changing Medicare reimbursement environment, was held during the 2013 ASCO Annual Meeting in Chicago. Moderated by ASCO CEO Allen Lichter, MD, the special forum provided a unique opportunity to spotlight a critically important issue to the oncology community against the political backdrop of sequestration cuts and efforts to repeal the sustainable growth rate formula, and a heightened focus by lawmakers and healthcare providers on quality improvement.

“It’s not lost on anyone that we are in times of great change, but at the same time great opportunity to chart a new and better course, a solid and stable future for physician payment reform,” Dr. Lichter said. “It is incumbent upon us as the oncology community to come forward with ideas, but allow the field to accommodate change, adjust to change and emerge from a period of transition, more solid and capable than ever.”

Town hall panelists and audience participants discussed strategies for reforming the Medicare reimbursement system including new care models such as the patient-centered medical home, case management and clinical pathways.

Panelists included then Clinical Practice Committee Chair Jeffery C. Ward, MD; Roscoe F. Morton, MD, community oncologist and past-chair of the Clinical Practice Committee; John V. Cox, MD, community oncologist from Texas; Mark E. Thompson, MD, president of the Community Oncology Alliance; and Richard Deem, senior vice president of advocacy at the American Medical Association.

Discussing ASCO’s payment reform workgroup efforts, Dr. Ward said, “Reforms we need to develop and the solutions we make will be transforming for all of oncology – not just some of us. Curing the ills of oncology will first require palliating some of the symptoms caused by fee-for-service medicine, tweaking it if you will, but that ultimately being paid for how much you do will be replaced by how well you do it.”

ASCO continues to encourage its members to become better educated on payment reform issues by reading its four-part educational series providing deep analysis into the current reimbursement system.

While acknowledging that physician payment reform will require wholesale change within the health care system, ASCO believes that a “one-size-fits-all” approach will not be viable given the wide variability of practice settings across the United States. Underscored during the town hall discussion were ASCO’s principles for payment reform including:

  • Oncologists play a leadership role in development and testing; 
  • A period of stability that protects patients and practices from harmful disruption;
  • The SGR is no longer the basis for determining Medicare payment to physicians; and 
  • The system fosters care that is physician-defined and clinically meaningful for patients.

For the latest on ASCO’s payment reform efforts, visit

Advocacy Category: