ACCC’s Annual National Meeting: Keeping the Oncology Team on the Front Lines of Changing Policy

Sydney Abbott, JD
Policy Coordinator, Association of Community Cancer Centers

The 2014 As­sociation of Co­m­­munity Cancer Centers (ACCC) Annual National Meeting brought together oncology care providers from across the country to network and learn about the legislative and regulatory policies impacting cancer care—and the timing could not have been better. Members in attendance at the meeting, held March 31 to April 2, were present for an important congressional vote on the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula, and even celebrated a victory with the passage of oral parity legislation in Wisconsin.

The meeting started off on a high note, with more than 50 members participating in more than 100 meetings on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Some of the hot topics focused on SGR reform, sequestration, oral parity, and the prompt payment discount. Congressional representatives and staff members heard firsthand accounts of how sequestration, particularly when considered in addition to the prompt payment discount, reduces Medicare reimbursement to the point where providers are actually losing money by caring for some of their patients.

Other advocates discussed the need for a permanent solution to the flawed SGR formula. Congress seemed to agree, and even worked out reasonable reform legislation, which ACCC members supported until the end of the day when the Senate voted on the issue. In some cases, ACCC members were the last voices heard by the Senate offices before votes were cast. In the end, it was not the policy of SGR reform that proved problematic—it was how to pay for the permanent fix. Democratic and Republican congressmen and congresswomen could not agree on how to pay for the $140-billion reform over the next 10 years, and ultimately another 12-month patch was passed. ACCC advocates vowed to continue the conversation with Congress to reach a long-term, sustainable solution before the next patch.

Following the trend of Capitol Hill Day, the rest of the national meeting looked at other relevant policy topics, including alternative payment reforms, patient access issues, and implementation of the Affordable Care Act. In particular, with the close of the first health insurance marketplace open enrollment period, there was a robust discussion of the exchanges’ successes, failures, and issues to watch moving forward.
Of note, members learned that although the state and federal insurance marketplaces did help bring coverage to more Americans than private insurance had previously, many of the newly covered—especially on lower-tiered plans—may not be able to afford the high deductibles (more than $6000 for an individual) and other cost-sharing mechanisms that are standard among all exchange plans. Concern was expressed for patients’ ability to access the most appropriate provider inside some of the limited networks that have proven to be a core component of bronze level plans, in particular. Meeting attendees talked about individuals moving from uninsured to underinsured, and not necessarily knowing it.

The meeting ended on a high note as 4 cancer care providers were recognized for their grassroots advocacy efforts to pass oral parity legislation at the state level. To make the recognition even sweeter, 2 of the advocates from the Medical College of Wisconsin celebrated the passage of the Wisconsin law just 1 day prior. The grassroots champions also talked about their experiences with the legislative process, encouraged other members to get involved.

If you missed the ACCC Annual National Meeting, please join us October 9-11, 2014, in San Diego, CA, for the ACCC National Oncology Conference, where we will highlight innovators and leaders in cancer care, and discuss the trends and changes facing the oncology team today and in the future. For more information, please visit www.accc-cancer.org/meetings.

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