A Legislation Library to Benefit AACI Cancer Centers

Roy Jensen, MD

Roy A. Jensen, MD

Cancer centers are an enormous force for good and collectively have worked to lower cancer incidence and mortality rates for over four decades. In many cases, this improvement has resulted from basic science advances being translated into the clinic for the benefit of cancer patients. But in other cases, cancer centers worked diligently to prevent cancer from developing in patients in the first place. This has primarily resulted from the enactment of good public policy that limits carcinogen exposures or promotes the adoption of healthy behaviors in large populations. Such efforts can often save hundreds—if not thousands—of lives over the course of many years and represent a critical tool in our efforts to lower cancer mortality.

As a membership organization serving 98 cancer centers in the United States and Canada, the Association of American Cancer Institutes (AACI) has an unprecedented opportunity to exert enormous influence on public policy. I suspect nearly every AACI cancer center in our organization is working to advance at least one public policy initiative, however we haven’t been able to leverage our collective efforts for maximum impact.

At the upcoming AACI/CCAF Annual Meeting, September 30 to October 2 in Chicago, I will begin my two-year term as president of AACI. For my presidential initiative, I intend to spearhead the development of a comprehensive, cancer-specific clearinghouse of model legislation for AACI cancer centers to share with their state/province legislators.

My hope is to offer a dynamic, online library of model policies – each of which is the product of many hours of research and data collection. Using this framework, I believe AACI would be positioned to become a “one-stop shop” for cancer-related public policy. AACI will not engage in formal lobbying; however, the database will serve as a go-to source for information that AACI’s members can use to educate legislators on the issues vital to decreasing cancer incidence and mortality in their catchment area.

Read more from Dr. Jensen, CEO and director of The University of Kansas Cancer Center and AACI vice president/president-elect, in AACI’s September 2018 Commentary

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CMS Reimbursement Cuts to Cancer Centers Threaten Access to Lifesaving Cancer Treatments for Underserved Patients

Willman

Cheryl L. Willman, MD

On January 1, 2018, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) implemented a new rule that significantly reduces reimbursement to hospitals and the vast majority of cancer centers that participate in the Congressionally-mandated 340B Drug Purchasing Program. The new CMS rule (82 FR 52356) went into effect without Congressional approval and despite strong bipartisan objections from legislators in both chambers of Congress, the Association of American Cancer Institutes (AACI), and a large majority of cancer center directors from NCI-designated and emerging academic cancer centers. The rule disproportionately harms those hospitals and cancer centers that provide care for the most vulnerable and underserved cancer patients, compounding the nation’s tremendous cancer health disparities.

Established by Congress in 1992 with strong bipartisan support, the 340B Drug Pricing Program requires drug manufacturers to sell drugs at discounted prices to hospitals and cancer centers that provide a disproportionate share of care to low-income, rural, poor, and underserved patients, to have their drugs covered by Medicare and Medicaid. The Congressional intent of the 340B Drug Pricing program is to allow hospitals and cancer centers to reinvest their savings from these drug discounts to assure patient access to high-quality care and lifesaving cancer treatments, and to develop comprehensive services.

The new CMS rule drastically reduces Medicare Part B reimbursement rates for drug  purchases to hospitals and cancer centers participating in the 340B Drug Pricing Program. Under the new rule, CMS reimbursement for drug purchases has decreased from the prior rate of Average Sale Price (ASP) plus 6 percent, to ASP minus 22.5 percent, resulting in a cut of $1.6 billion per year to the nation’s public safety-net hospitals and cancer centers. This cut fully eliminates the benefit of the 340B drug pricing program to participating cancer centers. Despite claims by CMS and the drug industry, the new rule does not lower drug prices, save money for Medicare or for seniors, or reduce patient co-pays. In fact, the cost of lifesaving cancer drugs is predicted to increase significantly.


Read more from Dr. Willman, CEO and director of the University of New Mexico’s Comprehensive Cancer Center, in AACI’s July 2018 Commentary

Answering the Call for Collaboration to Expand Discoveries and Address Disparities

Stanton L. Gerson, MD

AACI President Stanton L. Gerson, MD

Public interest in cancer discovery has incredible traction; many people and institutions across the country are helping to expand the impact of our discoveries and to instill a sense of urgency that every household be included in the benefits of cancer research. I recently learned about some creative, exciting efforts to expand cancer discovery as a panelist at the Biden Cancer Initiative Colloquium, held in April at the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2018, in Chicago.

The Biden Cancer Initiative is a nonprofit established by former Vice President Joe Biden and Jill Biden, PhD in June 2017, to accelerate progress in cancer prevention, detection, treatment, and care.

During the panel discussion, I highlighted the ways that Case Comprehensive Cancer Center is addressing disparities in cancer, including a tobacco cessation intervention led by Monica Webb Hooper, PhD. Dr. Hooper became director of Case Comprehensive Cancer Center‘s Office of Cancer Disparities Research in 2016 and was closely involved with the vice president’s visit to Cleveland to learn about the city’s contributions to his “Cancer Moonshot” goals.

Read more from Dr. Gerson, director of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center in Cleveland, in AACI’s June 2018 Commentary