Report Compares Care Prior To And Following Passage Of Medicare Modernization Act

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Medicare Modernization Act

Cancer patients perceived no major changes in their quality of care following the passage of the Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act (MMA). The study is in contrast with anecdotal reports that due to funding cuts from the MMA, oncologists are downsizing their practices and closing satellite offices in many markets, forcing cancer patients to travel farther for treatment, particularly in rural areas.

Funded by the Global Access Project (GAP) -- a collaboration of 42 national healthcare stakeholder groups organized by National Patient Advocate Foundation (NPAF) to support research projects assessing implementation of the MMA and its unintended consequences, if any, for patients, providers and healthcare systems -- the study showed that, compared to patients treated before the MMA, there was no difference in the time to and location of treatment for patients with cancer treated after the Act was signed into law. However, the study observed a small but statistically significant trend in change in location for cancer care for post-MMA patients living in rural areas and patients with Medicare but no supplemental insurance.

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"It is heartening to see that most cancer patients perceive virtually no difference in their cancer care following the passage of the Medicare Modernization Act," said Nancy Davenport-Ennis, President and CEO of NPAF--a national, non-profit organization dedicated to the mission of creating avenues of improved patient access to healthcare through public policy reform at the state and federal levels. "However, we were concerned to learn that patients most at-risk -- those with added challenges in accessing quality cancer care -- may be more negatively impacted by MMA funding cuts. That is why it is important that our research project continue to monitor the impact of MMA so patients are not faced with access issues while trying to manage this dreadful disease."

When the MMA was signed into law by President Bush in 2003, it was the most comprehensive restructuring of Medicare since its inception in 1965. The law created a prescription drug benefit and provided $25 billion for rural hospitals, but it also significantly reduced Medicare reimbursements to healthcare providers starting January 1, 2005. Cancer care, in particular, was targeted for cuts because legislators considered it to have been overly funded.

Though the study, conducted at the Duke Clinical Research Institute, overall did not find that patients are being negatively impacted as a result of the MMA, it suggested that the Act's possible impact on vulnerable cancer patients -- including those in rural areas and those with only Medicare insurance -- should be investigated.

"We strive to help cancer patients access convenient, safe and high-quality care -- no matter where they live or what their insurance issues may be," said Davenport-Ennis. "We encourage additional research to further examine what types of problems these particular patients in the CANCER study faced, so that we can then best learn how to overcome them."

NPAF is the companion organization of the Patient Advocate Foundation (PAF), which was founded on the principle that healthcare is a basic human need and shared social responsibility. NPAF is dedicated to working collectively with the Administration, Congress and all levels of government to overcome the challenges and create solutions that will allow for progressive, modern and effective healthcare for all. PAF services are available to all patients, patient families and medical professionals and offer a variety of patient assistance programs including Co-Pay Relief and Colorectal Care Line, as well as insurance claims intervention, job retention services and debt crisis management.

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