Flexibilities for Providers, Patients During COVID-19 Pandemic Applauded; Concerns Over Home Infusion Remain

June 8, 2020

The Association for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) recently submitted a letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) regarding the Policy and Regulatory Revisions in Response to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (CMS-1744-IFC) interim final rule. In the letter, ASCO applauds the temporary flexibilities CMS has established to promote efficiency and streamline processes for healthcare providers during the COVID-19 pandemic and the public health emergency (PHE).

Specifically, ASCO commends:

  • CMS’ actions to ensure telehealth is broadly available to practitioners and patients and to promote the utilization of telehealth during the PHE. ASCO urges CMS to consider extending the expanded telehealth policies beyond the PHE
  • CMS’ efforts to reduce administrative burden for physicians through the announcement of the MIPS data reporting delay and increased availability of hardship exemptions
  • CMS' implementation of Medicare Part D flexibilities intended to ensure adequate supplies of medications for patients

ASCO has significant concerns, however, about the safety of home infusion for chemotherapy drugs and does not support its use unless there are extraordinary circumstances and a treating physician—who has extensively consulted the patient—has determined it is the most appropriate and viable alternative.

ASCO members have also expressed concerns around patient safety and the feasibility for practices to send clinic staff to a patient’s home. Specifically, concerns from practices include:

  • Patients’ ability to obtain adequate medical evaluation prior to administration of medication
  • Managing adverse reactions that may occur outside of a medical facility
  • Managing a high volume of complex infusions with limited or reduced staff
  • Safely transporting hazardous medications and related equipment
  • Ensuring staff and patients have proper personal protective equipment

As the legislative and regulatory environment around COVID-19 continually shifts, ASCO continues its efforts to ensure that the needs of cancer patients and the cancer care team are addressed.

Read full comment letter.

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