Lawmakers Introduce Comprehensive Cancer Survivorship Act
A group of bipartisan US lawmakers recently introduced a bill to address the complex health needs of cancer survivors across the continuum of care as well as close gaps and barriers to care.
The Comprehensive Cancer Survivorship Care Act sets out to improve patients’ oncology care and quality of life during active treatment and recovery by establishing standards and programs to manage a patient’s diagnosis, active treatment, and long-term follow-up care.
On December 14, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23) a cancer survivor herself, held a press conference to introduce the bill. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-1), and Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) also led the bill.
“As a fifteen-year cancer survivor, confronting it head-on, with an all-hands-on-deck approach, is my personal and professional mission,” Wasserman Schultz said in a press release. “With the Comprehensive Cancer Survivorship Act, I am proud to introduce far-reaching legislation that better enables cancer survivors to choose their own path, provides them agency and autonomy over their personal health experiences and decisions, and addresses the entire survivorship continuum of care.”
The number of cancer survivors in the US is expected to grow from more than 18 million currently to 26 million by 2040. Survivors include anyone with a history of cancer, starting from the time of diagnosis.
“Each year, our nation makes new advancements in cancer treatment, increasing the number of cancer survivors across the country,” Fitzpatrick, co-chair of the Congressional Cancer Caucus, said in the release. “It is time that we set standards of care for those who are cancer survivors, and we address the emotional, financial and physical challenges that these millions of Americans are faced with.”
The legislation addresses a range of key issues that affect cancer survivors and their families.
Cancer Care Planning and Coordination: This element of the bill outlines the development of treatment and follow-up care plans from the time a patient is diagnosed through survivorship, which includes cancer recurrence.
Alternative Payment Model: This section directs the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) to study the reimbursement landscape and develop an alternative payment model to ensure a coordinated approach to survivorship care. The secretary will submit such a plan within 18 months from the date the bill is enacted.
Survivorship Navigation: In this part of the Act, the HSS secretary is also tasked with developing a plan for comprehensive navigation services, which includes follow-up care and consideration of health disparities and determinants, such as food insecurity, housing, transportation, labor, and childcare. The plan will be based on a detailed review of previous and existing cancer survivorship navigation programs.
Survivorship Quality of Care: This section establishes a program over a 5-year period that will award grants to “eligible entities” to improve the quality of survivorship care in urban, rural, and tribal areas, focusing on the use of navigation services as well as the transitions from oncology care to primary care and possibly home care.
Cancer Survivor Workforce Assistance Grants: This section establishes a grant program to provide education and assistance to cancer survivors who experience workforce challenges.
Repository for Education: The legislation lays out a plan for educating survivors and healthcare professionals about early detection as well as preventive and high-quality survivorship care. The secretary will establish a survivorship resource center informed by cancer survivors, patient organizations, researchers, oncology professional societies, and other experts.
The legislation also explores the use of technology to improve care planning and coordination, provide coverage for fertility preservation services, and develop a standard of care to manage transitions to primary care for children, adolescence, and young adult cancer survivors.
The bill received support from a host of cancer centers and organizations, including the American Association for Cancer Research, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.
“The Comprehensive Cancer Survivorship Act is a huge step forward for millions of people living with, through, and beyond cancer in the United States,” said Smitha Pabbathi, MD, medical director, Survivorship Clinic, Moffitt Cancer Center, Tampa, Florida. “With an array of measures to improve the entire continuum of care ― from diagnosis through active treatment and post-treatment ― this legislation will strengthen our ability to meet the unique needs of cancer survivors.”
Robert W. Carlson, MD, NCCN’s chief executive officer, applauded the bill, stating that the Act ” would address critical gaps, for both adults and children, by providing coverage for vital services to ease the transition from oncology to primary care.”
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