Recently we were reminded of the importance of the Planning Actively for Cancer Treatment (PACT) Act, H.R. 2477 as we participated in the Lymphoma Research Foundation’s (LRF) Lymphoma Education and Advocacy Partners (LEAP) webinar focused on survivorship and care coordination. NCCS has identified the PACT Act as one of our primary public policy priorities as it is an important effort to ensure quality cancer care by addressing the gap in treatment planning and coordination.

The PACT Act will guarantee Medicare beneficiaries a new service that encourages doctors to create a written care plan and to discuss and alter the plan based on shared decisions made with the patient’s active involvement. Currently, most cancer patients do not receive a written plan that explains the diagnosis, treatments, and expected symptoms. This presents serious consequences for the quality of care patients receive, as well as for the Medicare program that is responsible for over half of the 1.6 million newly diagnosed cancer patients each year. Research has confirmed that coordinated cancer care as outlined in a written care plan—care that integrates active treatment and symptom management—improves patient outcomes, increases patient satisfaction, and reduces utilization of health care resources.

In addition to a written plan while receiving active treatment, care planning has an important role after treatment concludes, as survivors can benefit from a plan that includes information about monitoring and follow-up. These survivorship care plans should be shared with all parties involved in the patient’s treatment to help reduce duplication of testing and other services.

During the LEAP webinar, Dr. Carrie Thompson of the Mayo Clinic cited several studies that point to effects cancer survivors experience after they conclude active treatment. For example, one study demonstrates that rates of depression and anxiety in cancer survivors are higher than the general population for several years after therapy. Even after rates of depression stabilize to the general population levels, anxiety levels remained elevated.

The compounding psychological and physical effects cancer survivors experience after active treatment call for high quality care coordination to improve outcomes and quality of life. If passed, the PACT Act will make care planning and coordination a routine part of cancer care for Medicare beneficiaries and work to eliminate inconsistencies and gaps.

NCCS advocates had the following to say regarding H.R. 2477:

“Cancer patients NEED care planning and care coordination. Health care providers are currently not reimbursed for the time they spend with patients to ensure patients truly understand their diagnosis, prognosis, goals of treatment, treatment choices and side effects of those treatments. The PACT Act will create a Medicare benefit to ensure physicians are reimbursed for these critical interactions at the time of diagnosis, when treatment changes and when a patient leaves active treatment. When patients understand these issues they are able to make well informed choices in the treatment decisions which result in better patient outcomes.” 

“I am a Rush University Medical Center adult oncology medical-surgical nurse that sees how cancer patients could truly benefit from improved care coordination.” 

“I am a healthy 33 year-old and a breast cancer survivor, and know the overwhelming feeling of having to coordinate my cancer care while trying to focus on the journey ahead. It is unimaginable to have any Medicare-eligible individual navigate their cancer care without a team approach guiding them through. These individuals would be my mother, father, and beloved older relatives. Let’s allow the cancer patient the ability to focus on surviving and healing, and let them rest assure that their care will be the best practices available, and tailored to their needs.” 

“I have been researching the experiences of women with advanced and recurrent cancer for the past six years. My work at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine has shown that planning cancer care, regardless of stage, physical function, or prognosis is crucial for helping patients and their families retain the most important protective resource of all – hope. Being blinded by a dangerous disease is a terrible experience but to be continuously blindsided by the mysteries of medical routines, insurance surprises, and unexpected transitions is tragic and unnecessary. As a concerned professional and passionate voter I am asking that you please support H.R.2477.”

Please take action today and send an email to your congressional representative or call their office and request that they co-sponsor the Planning Actively for Cancer Treatment Act.