ASTRO Concerned $300 Million Cut to Radiation Oncology Skips Established Rate Setting Methods

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Advanced medical imaging was not alone in being unwillingly made to shoulder the financial burden of paying for a one-year fix to the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula that would have cut Medicare physician by 27 percent. The legislation signed into law late Wednesday also reduces Medicare payments for radiation oncology by $300 million over 10 years.

Michael L. Steinberg, MD, FASTRO, chairman of the American Society for Radiation Oncology released a statement expressing his and the association's concern about how the cut was made.

The radiation therapy cuts are directed towards a cancer treatment called radiosurgery, specifically radiosurgery that involves the radioactive material multi-sourced Cobalt 60.

“ASTRO appreciates Congress’ efforts to prevent Medicare physician payment cuts under the flawed sustainable growth rate formula. However, we are very concerned by the arbitrary payment cuts proposed for multi-source Cobalt 60 radiosurgery, which relies on highly-skilled professionals and resource-intensive materials and equipment to deliver a critical cancer treatment,” said Steinberg, in a statement on ASTRO's website. “ASTRO supports the outpatient payment system’s use of hospital-reported cost information to set payment rates for services, and we are concerned this policy change ignores this long-standing, accepted process. We urge Congress to reconsider this significant payment cut, which gives providers less than three months to prepare, and instead encourage Medicare to reexamine these payment rates through the hospital outpatient payment system with significant input from stakeholders.”