I am writing to you as President of the Association of Freestanding Radiation Oncology Centers (AFROC) to ask for your support in revitalizing the Association to represent the interests of freestanding radiation oncology centers. AFROC’s continued representation of freestanding centers over the coming year and beyond is critical in light of the challenges we currently face.
While Medicare payment for the technical component of radiation oncology centers has been essentially frozen through the end of 2019, it is anticipated that the Medicare program will reconsider substantial Medicare payment reductions that were put on hold when the freeze was enacted. At that time, it was anticipated that, by 2019, a voluntary episode-based payment demonstration program would be available to freestanding facilities as an alternative to Physician Fee Schedule rates—but no such demonstration program has materialized, nor does it appear likely to materialize in the near future, absent strong leadership from freestanding centers. AFROC needs your support to convince Congress to either further extend the freeze or to help design a workable alternative by the end of 2019.
In addition, we need AFROC to help steer us through the possible transition to episode-based payments. . In an RFI outlining its New Directions and in a Report to Congress, both issued in November of last year, the CMS Innovation Center (CMMI) made it clear that it is considering expanding a medical oncology focused demonstration project––the Oncology Care Model –to include radiation oncology episodes. The Oncology Care Model places medical oncologists at the center of cancer patient management and “at risk” financially for the provision of radiation oncology services. Yet, this model includes no requirement for clinical input from radiation oncologists. The potential expansion of this model in its current form to radiation oncology episodes has the potential to marginalize our specialty. AFROC has the expertise to help ensure that whatever episode based payment model emerges for radiation oncology takes our needs into account.
Finally, AFROC is offering new and renewing members a number of unique membership benefits in 2018. AFROC’s annual meeting will be held in conjunction with the ACCC Radiation Oncology Pre-Conference on March 14, 2018 in Washington DC, and, over the coming year, we will be offering four webinars that will be free to members on regulatory requirements and business issues of interest to freestanding centers. In addition, members joining by June, 2018 will be entitled to a half hour consultation with AFROC legal counsel on an issue of your choice, free of charge.
Over the past twenty years, AFROC has served as a highly effective representative of freestanding centers. I hope that you will join me in re-establishing AFROC as the highly effective proponent of our interests that it has always been. Join AFROC now to help assure the continued survival of freestanding radiation oncology centers as a vital component of the Nation’s cancer treatment capabilities.
Michael J. Katin, MD