ASTRO Releases Policy-Directed Guidelines for Quality Cancer Care


The American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) is urging the new United States Congress to prioritize reforms that avoid disruption in coverage and care for patients with cancer.


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Studies have shown that a lack of health insurance leads to delayed diagnosis and treatment, resulting in higher mortality and more invasive treatments. ASTRO supports policy solutions that preserve the ban on pre-existing condition limitations and eliminate lifetime caps on coverage. These protections, ASTRO believes, prevents patients from losing their health insurance or not being approved for coverage after a cancer diagnosis.

ASTRO estimates close to 2 million people will be diagnosed with cancer in 2017 and approximately half of these individuals will undergo radiation therapy. “Limiting access to insurance for this vulnerable population will limit their access to the treatments they both need and deserve," said David C Beyer, MD, FASTRO, Chair of ASTRO's Board of Directors. "Moreover, health insurance limitations will add a financial burden to these patients during a time when they should be focusing on their own survival."

ASTRO recommends that the following bipartisan principles act as guidelines for Congress as it considers alternative approaches to providing quality care to US patients with cancer:

  • Maintain bans on pre-existing condition exclusions and annual and lifetime limit caps.
  • Preserve guaranteed issue and guaranteed renewability.
  • Provide access to specialty care, provider choice and the range of services that cancer patients need.
  • Safeguard access to evidence-based cancer screening and prevention programs.
  • Prohibit cost-shifting to cancer patients and providers to cover uncompensated or underfunded care.
  • Provide sufficient funds for public health, preventive services and patient navigator services for cancer patients.
  • Simplify burdensome systems to reduce costs, create a more efficient system and maximize funding for health care services.
  • Ensure that patient safety and quality programs improve quality and enhance the doctor/patient relationship and are meaningful to patients and physicians alike.
  • Include health plans that provide useful, understandable information about health plan options, physician specialist networks and transparent provider network participation criteria.

It is ASTRO’s hope, explains Dr Beyer, that Congress will continue their steadfast commitment to patients with cancer by providing them with access to quality treatment in their health care reform efforts.