Take Action Now: Urge Congress to Address Three Cancer Policy Priorities by the End of the Year

December 18, 2017

Update: Congress passed tax reform legislation earlier this week, and President Trump is expected to sign the bill into law in early 2018. 

In the final weeks of 2017, lawmakers are finalizing legislation that could impact access to cancer care and cancer research progress. To ensure oncologists remain able to provide high-quality care for individuals with cancer in 2018 and beyond, ASCO calls on Congress to take three key steps before it recesses for the year.

#1. Make MACRA Work:
Under a provision in the Quality Payment Program (QPP) 2018 final rule, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is applying Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) adjustments to Part B drug reimbursement and Medicare Physician Fee Schedule services. ASCO’s data show that the median financial penalty for oncology practices under this provision would range from 13.7% to 22.9%—well beyond the 4% penalty Congress envisioned when drafting the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA), which established QPP.

ASCO urges Congress to make a technical correction to MACRA to exclude Part B drug reimbursement from MIPS payment adjustments.  

#2. Protect Medicare Access:
Tax reform legislation under consideration in Congress may trigger cuts to Medicare unless Congress acts to avoid them. Since sequestration took effect in 2013, more oncology practices have struggled financially and many smaller practices, in particular, have been forced to close their doors or consolidate, reducing patient access to cancer care, especially in rural areas. The additional, and larger, cuts of up to four percent—or $25 billion—to Medicare in 2018 under the current tax reform proposal would cause further instability in the fragile cancer care delivery system and threaten patient access to care.

ASCO urges Congress to ensure final tax reform legislation, if passed, does not add to the burden on Medicare beneficiaries with cancer by triggering these across-the-board cuts.

#3. Continue Research Progress:

The federal government is currently operating under a Continuing Resolution (CR), which keeps funding flat through December 22, 2017. Before Congress passes a full Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 spending bill, lawmakers must come to an agreement on whether to raise discretionary budget caps. If these spending cuts are not lifted, the amount of funding available for biomedical research and other cancer priorities will be greatly constrained.

ASCO urges Congress to raise the caps and increase funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

ASCO members should contact their lawmakers to urge support for these cancer policy priorities using the ACT Network.

Updates from Capitol Hill that impact the oncology community are available on ASCO in Action.