Conference Coverage

CMS weighs extension of Oncology Care Model



– Federal officials are considering how they might extend a test of payment approaches meant to spur more coordinated cancer care beyond the program’s current 2021 end date.

Dr. Alexandra Chong, Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation

Dr. Alexandra Chong

Alexandra Chong, PhD, the team lead for the Oncology Care Model at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI), said her agency found strong support for sustaining this kind of effort at “practice transformation.” The Oncology Care Model, which kicked off in 2016, involves about 175 practices and 10 insurers.

“As we look forward, we certainly recognize and appreciate the importance of the impact that [the Oncology Care Model] made and the desire for a continuation, either in an iteration of the current model or a different model,” Dr. Chong said during a panel discussion at a policy summit sponsored by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN).

Dr. Chong said the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is aware that there is “a lot of interest” in the future of the program. “We have heard from our practices that this model has been an opportunity for them to provide the care that they really want to provide,” Dr. Chong said.

A fellow panelist at the NCCN event, Kerin Adelson, MD, chief quality officer of Yale’s Smilow Cancer Hospital, New Haven, Conn., pressed for continuation of this kind of a payment test. Smilow has used revenue from the Oncology Care Model program to develop dashboards to measure individual clinicians’ patterns of care and share data with them, Dr. Adelson said.

The changes have been “transformative,” including allowing for hiring of additional support staff, Dr. Adelson said.

“I am terrified about what’s going to happen at the end of the program if there is not another model to transition to,” Dr. Adelson said. “We will potentially be looking at layoffs of these people who are so incredible and have done so much for the care we are giving.”

In May 2019, some of Dr. Chong’s CMMI colleagues published a report in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute about the experiences of clinics participating in the Oncology Care Model. For instance, the U.S. Oncology Network used Monthly Enhanced Oncology Services [MEOS] payments through the program for new hires such as navigators, social workers, additional advanced practice providers, “and even data analysts,” according to the report.

Still, there have been “growing pains” with the start-up of the model, Dr. Chong said. Fellow participants on the NCCN panel cited the introduction of costly new drugs as one wrinkle in the early days of the Oncology Care Model. Another is that physicians in practices signed up for the program sometimes are unaware of it.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology also is advocating for a continuation of a model along the lines of the Oncology Care Model.

“It would be good to see it continue. We’re certainly supportive of continuing to work on this model and refine it and see where it goes,” Stephen S. Grubbs, MD, ASCO’s vice president for clinical affairs, said in an interview.

Dr. Stephen S. Grubbs, ASCO vice president for clinical affairs

Dr. Stephen S. Grubbs

Dr. Grubbs said that CMS’s Oncology Care Model could not be greatly expanded in its current form, as it imposes a steep administrative burden for both practices who participate, as well as for CMMI. The current model also does not serve smaller and rural practices well, he said.

ASCO is refining its own proposal for an alternative payment approach. The group plans to present its Patient-Centered Oncology Payment (PCOP) model, first published in 2015, before an influential federal advisory group, the Physician-Focused Payment Model Technical Advisory Committee (PTAC), at a meeting in 2020.

Next Article: