COA helps cancer patients find local, independent care
by MDJ staff
March 25, 2013 12:09 AM | 2396 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Susanne Johnson-Berns, holding sign at right, leads a group of area cancer survivors and cancer advocates on a trip from Marietta to Florida on Thursday. The group received training on how to advocate and lobby for affordable, community based cancer care funding. Some of the federal funding that goes to independent cancer care providers could soon be cut due to sequestration.
Susanne Johnson-Berns, holding sign at right, leads a group of area cancer survivors and cancer advocates on a trip from Marietta to Florida on Thursday. The group received training on how to advocate and lobby for affordable, community based cancer care funding. Some of the federal funding that goes to independent cancer care providers could soon be cut due to sequestration.
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Learning you have cancer can be even more devastating if you don’t have access to quality, affordable care close by in your community.

That’s where the Georgia Chapter of the Community Oncology Alliance Patient Advocacy Network steps in and goes to work, helping people connect with local independent medical practices.

Susanne Johnson-Berns, president of the Georgia chapter, boarded a donated Greyhound bus in Marietta on Thursday bound for the 2013 COA Community Oncology Conference in Orlando, Fla.

COA is a nonprofit that advocates for cancer patients and their oncologists. It works to help protect and foster the community oncology delivery system in the United States and protect patients’ access to quality, affordable care.

These cancer survivors and patient advocates were planning to spend several days in Florida, not visiting with Mickey Mouse, but learning how to help fight for affordable, community-based cancer care.

They also will learn how to support legislative policies assisting cancer patients and their local cancer centers.

Johnson-Berns also is employed by Marietta-based Northwest Georgia Oncology Centers. As Georgia’s largest community-based, independent cancer practice, Northwest Georgia Oncology is actively involved in COA.

Medical Director Dr. Bruce Gould serves as vice president of the national organization. Fighting to maintain community-based cancer care is especially important in a climate where shifting public policy, including reimbursement cuts for chemotherapy, drugs and financial aid, are threatening access to care, Johnson-Berns said.

Meridith Kelly, spokeswoman for the group, said a deadline is looming in early April which could result in federal sequestration cuts that will affect the kind of independent, community based cancer care that Northwest Georgia Oncology provides.

Access to cancer care in community-based cancer centers is in jeopardy. Providers are retiring early due to bureaucracy and the financial strain of providing care (cuts in physician reimbursements) without the larger backing of a hospital-based system.

This is forcing many community-based cancer centers out of business, Kelly said.

Who really pays? The patients.

“By participating in COA, we are standing up for patients’ rights to have the best treatment and the same doctors and nurses every time (unlike hospital-based cancer centers),” according to a statement issued by the Northwest Georgia Oncology Centers.

The impact of the 2 percent Medicare sequester payment cut to drugs and services has a larger effect not just on reimburse, but to patient care.

See more at www.communityoncology.org/site/blog/detail/2013/03/08/fight-sequester-cuts-to-cancer-care.html.

“We are fighting to make sure that with all the legislative changes taking place that community cancer centers/clinics will continue to exist so cancer patients will continue to have a choice in their treatment and care,” according to the practice’s statement.

“NGOC wants to continue to serve its Marietta patients and others in its 10 cancer centers in northwest Georgia with the most advanced cancer treatments and access to cutting-edge clinical trials close to home,” according to the statement.

For more information, see COA’s Online Media Kit at www.communityoncology.org/site/coa-press-kit.htm.

For more information on NGOC, visit the group’s new website at www.ngoc.com.
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