On Tuesday, Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, and Republican Rep. Charles Boustany Jr., M.D., of Louisiana, reintroduced the bipartisan Planning Actively for Cancer Treatment (PACT) Act (H.R. 2846), which would encourage Medicare providers to actively engage their patients in developing cancer care plans.

The PACT Act would improve the quality and coordination of cancer care for Medicare beneficiaries by providing coverage for health providers and patients to jointly develop a cancer care treatment plan that addresses both treatment and symptom management. This is critical not only for patient awareness, but also for better coordinated care among the many specialists often involved in a patient’s cancer treatment. The planning service could be provided to patients at the time of cancer diagnosis, at the end of active treatment and beginning of long-term survivorship, or if there is a significant change in treatment.

Currently, most cancer patients do not receive a written plan that explains their diagnosis, treatments, and expected symptoms. Without a care plan, patients must navigate the complexities of a cancer diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship without a map for this all-important and often life changing journey. Care planning encourages important health care provider-patient discussions, which lead to care decisions that are based both on medical evidence and patient values. Research has shown this to be a critical piece to improving patient care.

“This year, more than 1.6 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer, beginning what is most often an extremely intimidating journey,” Capps said. “Although many of these cancer patients and survivors will receive the best care our health care system has to offer, gaps still exist. The PACT Act would fill in those gaps by bringing the care team and patient together to develop a roadmap for the individual’s cancer care, from diagnosis through survivorship.”

“As a physician who treated life-threatening diseases, I know just how frightening a diagnosis can be for patients,” Boustany said. “It takes teamwork between doctors and patients to ensure the patient receives the best possible care positioning them for a successful outcome. The PACT Act is a smart approach that ensures cancer patients receive a clear and thoughtful roadmap taking them from diagnosis to remission and beyond.”

“The PACT Act has the potential to make a real difference in cancer care in our lifetime,” said NCCS Chief Executive Officer Shelley Fuld Nasso. “Medical providers want to deliver the best care possible, but in order to do that, the patient’s wishes must be clearly understood. By encouraging deliberate discussion and planning before, during and after cancer treatment, we can help make cancer patients — and the health system that cares for them — better.”

The Institute of Medicine has released reports recommending the incorporation of cancer care planning and coordination in the cancer care system. Research has shown that coordinated cancer care outlined in a written care plan improves patient outcomes, increases patient satisfaction, and reduces utilization of health care resources.

The PACT Act has been endorsed by:

» American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN)

» American Society of Clinical Oncology

» Cancer Support Community

» Colon Cancer Alliance

» Fight Colorectal Cancer

» Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

» The Life Raft Group

» LIVESTRONG Foundation

» Lymphoma Research Foundation

» National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship

» National Comprehensive Cancer Network

» National Lung Cancer Partnership

» Sisters Network

» Susan G. Komen Advocacy Alliance

» ThyCa: Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association

» University of Arizona Cancer Center

» University of Cincinnati Cancer Institute

» Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University

» The GW Cancer Institute, George Washington University

» University of Kansas Cancer Center

» Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute

» H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute

» University of New Mexico Cancer Center

» NYU Cancer Institute

» NYU Langone Medical Center

» University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center

» University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute

» Stephenson Cancer Center at the University of Oklahoma

— Chris Meagher is a press secretary for Rep. Lois Capps.