Medical Oncologists' Reimbursement Incentivizes Choosing High-Cost Meds

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The current reimbursement system for medical oncologists could be improved by separating income from drug selection, according to an editorial published in Health Affairs.

Currently, medical oncologists receive higher payments when they bill for more expensive medications, which provides an incentive for choosing more costly care when it may not be more effective. The author, Lee Newcomer, MD, senior vice president of UnitedHealthcare, proposes four steps necessary to create a sustainable reimbursement structure for medical oncologists:

1.    Make oncologists' income independent of cancer drug selection.

2.    Base pricing of new cancer drugs on value. Manufacturers should be incentivized to create "high-impact, affordable drugs," the author writes.

3.    Develop payment incentives that support constant comparative effectiveness analysis using data from real patients.

4.    Reward physicians for improved outcomes, such as clinical responses, patients' quality of life and cost management.

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