ACR wants CMS to delay radiation oncology model amid current pandemic

The American College of Radiology is asking the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to delay the start of a new radiation oncology payment model in an effort to preserve precious radiology resources for patients with the coronavirus.

CEO of the college, William T. Thorwarth Jr., MD, sent a letter last week to CMS’ Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, asking it to push back implementation by six months, to Jan. 1, 2021, at the earliest. The ACR has requested delays to the proposed Radiation Oncology Model in the past, including last September.

The payment model is part of the proposed rule “Specialty Care Models to Improve Quality of Care and Reduce Expenditures,” which is under review by officials at the Office of Management and Budget. According to CMS, the rule would test how prospective episodic payments to outpatient facilities and freestanding centers impact radiotherapy care for Medicare patients, and if such an approach cuts costs.  

“Administrative and clinical priorities are focused on patient access, patient safety, and staff safety, and a complete overhaul of the payment structure for RO care is not appropriate at this time nor in the next several months,” Thorwarth wrote in the March 20 letter.

While the ACR is awaiting publication of the final rule and proposed implementation date, the organization estimated it may fall around July 1.

Thorwarth also recommended that when the final ruling does arrive, CMMI should offer an additional comment period for stakeholders, including radiation oncology practices, to incorporate the effects of COVID-19 into their responses.

“Due to COVID-19, there are increasing disruptions in the healthcare system affecting radiation oncology practices,” Thorwarth wrote. “The ACR does not want RO Model implementation to distract from COVID-19 response and adjustment to regulations.”