Last year was very traumatic for those of us trying to deliver quality care in the outpatient setting. The proposed draconian cuts by CMS were reduced thanks to an unprecedented effort by physicians and patients to get the attention of their Congressional representatives. AFROC was an active participant in this effort and I know you have all been kept well informed by Diane Millman about this. Although the situation is better than it might have been, our ability to practice was severely affected, and it will not be possible to tolerate additional burdens.
This year, not only do we have to be concerned about the fee schedule that will be coming out in July, but we may suffer collateral damage as the Executive and Legislative branches of government continue to negotiate ways to reduce the deficit. We may suffer from changes that may not have been deliberately intended to reduce our reimbursements, but could have that effect regardless. This is in addition to whatever discussions are held about finally resolving the hideous SGR dilemma.
Now, more than ever, it is critical to maintain vigilance as to what is being proposed, and be able to intervene to prevent damage from occurring, since reversing decisions is much more difficult. I encourage our membership to participate in AFROC and other organizations before we find that we have to abandon our efforts to treat patients in their own communities with the best techniques available. We need to help prevent the default to hospital centers that almost always provide more expensive, less personal, and less convenient care to those who are least able to overcome barriers.
Our group represents a small percentage of the oncology community, and an even smaller percentage of the medical profession in general. This means that our interests are easily overlooked by those who claim to represent us. I think many of you have found that other organizations have demonstrated greater fidelity to hospital-based and academic practices, often to our detriment.
The next one to two years may represent our final opportunity to secure economic stability for our practices.
I hope that AFROC will hear from you by renewing your memberships, telling your colleagues, and participating as much as possible.
Michael J. Katin, MD
President, AFROC Board of Directors