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Cancer Patient Protection Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mrs. ELLMERS. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to discuss H.R. 1416, the Cancer Patient Protection Act of 2013.

On April 1, 2013, the Obama administration reduced Medicare payments to the costs of cancer-fighting drugs. This is having a devastating impact on seniors fighting cancer and the Nation's cancer care delivery system, which is already in crisis.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, CMS, said that it does not have the authority to stop these devastating cuts to lifesaving chemotherapy drugs. That's why yesterday I introduced the Cancer Patient Protection Act of 2013, H.R. 1416, to ensure seniors, especially those on lower or fixed incomes, get the treatment they need.

The cuts the Obama administration is choosing to implement will jeopardize patient access to cancer care and result in higher overall costs for both seniors and the Medicare program by forcing patients into costlier hospital treatment settings.

The United States enjoys the most respected and most successful cancer care delivery system in the world. More than 60 percent of U.S. cancer patients rely on Medicare; and, until recently, over 80 percent of the Nation's cancer patients were treated by physicians in the community setting.

According to recent studies by Milliman and Avalere, community oncology clinics provide the most cost-effective model for delivering high-quality cancer services to elderly Americans. Despite this, a series of changes to Medicare reimbursements over the past decade have imperiled these vital innovations. The administration has decided to apply the sequester cut both to payments for part B drugs and to the 6 percent services payment.

A recent survey done by the Community Oncology Alliance shows the CMS cuts will force 72 percent of community cancer centers to stop seeing new Medicare patients, or not see Medicare patients without secondary insurance, and/or send Medicare patients elsewhere for treatment, such as costly hospitals, where treatment costs more.

When community cancer centers are forced to close their doors or limit services, access to cancer care is compromised for all cancer patients, especially the vulnerable population of seniors who rely on Medicare and those on fixed incomes and lower income individuals whose options are already limited.

Fortunately, the Secretary of Health and Human Services has the authority to protect against further destabilization of the community cancer care safety net.

The Office of Management and Budget, OMB, directed all Federal agencies to ``use any available flexibility to reduce operational risks and minimize impacts on the agency's core mission in service of the American people'' and to ``identify and address operational challenges that could potentially have a significant deleterious effect on the agency's mission or otherwise raise life, safety, or health concerns.''

Further, the Social Security Act compels the Secretary to adhere to the Average Sales Price-based formula that Congress established under the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003. The Social Security Act expressly mandates that the Secretary reimburse physicians at 106 percent of ASP for office-administered drugs, providing detailed directions to the Secretary on how to calculate the average sales price.

Congress has distinguished the Medicare drug payment methodology, and these provisions warrant deference under sequestration and guidance from the OMB.

By passing this bill, we are ensuring that everything can be done to prevent these cuts from going into effect. I encourage my colleagues to support this important piece of legislation.

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