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Cancer Patients Can’t Wait—Tell Your Senator To Act Now

Last July, the Colon Cancer Alliance applauded members of the House of Representatives for putting patient’s lives ahead of their political differences as the House overwhelming passed the 21st Century Cures Act by a 344 to 77 margin. This landmark legislation includes $9 billion in funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support cutting-edge biomedical research; it modernizes and streamlines the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval process for new treatments; and it removes the barriers that limited use of nationwide health data to help researchers and doctors improve health outcomes.

The House bill then went to the Senate. We assumed, given the fact this legislation literally has the potential to save lives, that the Senate would make it a top priority; instead last year the Senate essentially did nothing. Now this year Senator Alexander from Tennessee, Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee (HELP) decided not to take up the House bill and instead consider a series of twenty different Senate bills that contain elements of the House version. 

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Medicare Part B… Ware

Medicare seeks to ensure Americans over age 65, and younger people with certain disabilities, have affordable health care. This Federal health insurance program is particularly important for our community, as colon cancer disproportionately impacts older adults. Most people are familiar with Medicare Part D, which provides coverage for prescription drugs patients buy at the pharmacy; lesser known is Part B, which covers prescription drugs administered in a physician’s office or hospital outpatient department, such as most medications that treat colon cancer.

On March 8, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a proposed rule to test changes to Part B coverage. Acting Administrator for CMS Andy Slavitt said, “These proposals would allow us to test different ways to help Medicare beneficiaries get the right medication and right care…this is consistent with our focus on testing value-based care models.” The CMS-proposed tests come in two phases: the first changes how physicians are reimbursed under Part B and will start later this year, while the second will test a variety of pricing strategies in 2017.

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