Washington Hails End of ‘Doc Fix’ Debacle

As Jan. 1, 2002, approached, Tom Scully, the director of the Bush administration’s Medicare agency, was desperately trying to warn Congress about impending cuts to doctors.

A formula passed five years earlier was aimed at controlling Medicare spending, but this was the first time it was actually eating into doctors’ payments. (more…)

Only 251 Hospitals Score Five Stars In Medicare’s New Ratings

In an effort to make comparing hospitals more like shopping for refrigerators and restaurants, the federal government has awarded its first star ratings to hospitals based on patients’ appraisals.

Many of the nation’s leading hospitals received middling ratings, while comparatively obscure local hospitals and others that specialized in lucrative surgeries frequently received the most stars. (more…)

Prices of Cancer Drugs have Soared Since 1995

The prices of leading cancer drugs have risen at rates far outstripping inflation over the last two decades, according to a new study published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives (2015; doi:10.1257/jep.29.1.139).

Since 1995, a group of 58 leading cancer drugs has increased in price by 10% annually, even when adjusted for inflation and incremental health benefits, the study found. More specifically, in 1995, cancer drugs in this group cost approximately $54,100 for each year of life they were estimated to add; by 2013, that cost increased to approximately $207,000 per each additional year of life. (more…)

Analytics Reaches Oncology Practice, and End-Users Anticipate Major Changes

As cancer centers become squeezed by policy and reimbursement cross-currents, oncology managers look to analytics for support

The clinician and administrative leaders who are managing cancer care centers across the U.S. are finding their organizations squeezed between a number of different policy cross-currents these days, and are welcoming the imminent arrival of robust analytics tools to help them navigate uncharted waters. With oncologists seeing Medicare reimbursement shifts, and value-based purchasing pushing down on cancer care center payment as well, at the same time that expensive new medications continue to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), oncology leaders are hoping to harness the power of analytics in their specialty, one of the last to begin to robustly use data and analytics to change practice. (more…)

CMS Starts Cutting Pay for Doctors Who Don’t Measure Up

The new Value-Based Payment Modifier program from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) may not be high on the list of concerns for the average oncologist, but with immediate payment reductions of up to 1% for large practices that don’t meet cost and quality benchmarks, its impact could be huge.

Much larger adjustments for all practices are just a few years away. (more…)

Has the 340B Program Lost Its Way?

What started out as a charitable effort has morphed into a hospital and pharmacy enrichment scheme. Can it be fixed?

When it started more than 20 years ago, the 340B prescription drug discount program sought to ensure that safety net hospitals could dispense brand-name drugs to low-income patients. Today, critics accuse some participating hospitals of using the program to boost profits—perhaps at the expense of health plans and pharmacy benefit managers. (more…)

Genetically Engineered Salmonella Promising as Anti-cancer Therapy

A new study has demonstrated that genetically modified Salmonella can be used to kill cancer cells. The study is published in this week’s issue of mBio, an American Society for Microbiology online-only, open access journal.

“There has long been interest in using genetically engineered microbes to target and destroy cells within solid tumors. I think this study goes a significant way in developing some strategies that will help in the overall means of using Salmonella as part of a cancer therapy,” said Roy Curtiss, III, PhD, who was involved with the research. Dr. Curtiss is University Professor of Microbiology and Director, Center for Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology and Center for Microbial Genetic Engineering, the Biodesign Institute, Arizona State University. (more…)

Breath Test ‘Could Predict, Diagnose Stomach Cancer’

A new study published in the journal Gut reveals how researchers have created a breath test that could be used to diagnose stomach cancer, as well as predict whether an individual is at high risk for the disease.

It is estimated that around 24,590 people in the US will be diagnosed with stomach cancer, or gastric cancer, this year. It is most common among older people, with 69 being the average age of diagnosis in the US. (more…)

Guest Commentary: Health Policies Could End Community Oncologists

When it comes to cancer treatment reimbursements, community oncologists just cannot compete with large hospital networks that have both the funds and the congressional protection to continue treating patients. As patients transition to high deductible health plans, out-of-pocket costs per patient go up considerably, which makes cancer care increasingly difficult for patients to afford. (more…)

Highlights of bipartisan Medicare doctors’ bill in Senate

Highlights of House-passed legislation the Senate debated Tuesday changing how Medicare reimburses doctors. The bill would spend $214 billion over 10 years: (more…)