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Nathan Deal (R, Ga.) began representing the people of the 10th district of Georgia in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1992. Deal has long been dedicated to health care issues, especially for seniors. He has been honored for his commitment to health care by many organizations, including the 60 Plus Association, which recognized his dedication by awarding him its Senior's Rights Award. Because of his leadership and long-standing commitment to cancer care, Deal is considered one of the cancer community's strongest advocates in Congress.
Since 1995, the Congressman has served on the Subcommittee on Health of the powerful House Committee on Energy and Commerce. In January 2005, he assumed leadership of that subcommittee. As chairman, Deal oversees legislation, hearings, and markups for all legislative areas under the committee's jurisdiction, including Medicare, Medicaid, the Food and Drug Administration, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), including the National Cancer Institute.
As the subcommittee chair, Deal was instrumental in getting House Resolution (H Res) 261 considered and passed out of the full committee. The resolution was passed by the full House of Representatives in October. This legislation urged the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to continue its oncology quality demonstration project through 2006. ASCO appreciates Deal's support of H Res 261, which resulted in CMS's extending the demonstration project when many in Congress were calling for it to end. Since this interview took place, CMS has announced that the 2006 oncology demonstration project would be extended in a new format. It will now assess the extent to which practices adhere to practice guidelines for patient care established by ASCO and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN).
The Journal of Oncology Practice spoke with Deal about issues of critical importance to oncologists, including the subcommittee's priorities for the coming year, the impact of H Res 261, and the future of pay-for-performance programs.
JOP: Now that H Res 261 has passed in the House of Representatives, what is your perspective on the project, its continuation, and its impact on cancer care delivery and quality?
ND: Due to this demonstration project, CMS has received valuable data that will serve to better treat patients suffering from cancer. The demonstration reflects our commitment to quality and the use of clinical data to pave the road for enhanced quality care, including good clinical outcomes and reduced costs to Medicare and to Medicare beneficiaries. It is my hope that [CMS Administrator] Dr. [Mark] McClellan and his staff at CMS will extend this important project at least through 2006.
JOP: The overall goal of pay for performance is to create a set of initiatives that will drive improvements in the quality of health care and the patient experience. How do you predict that pay for performance will evolve within the Medicare program?
ND: With pay for performance, the government could be a better payer for health care services by paying physicians for the quality and efficiency of the care they provide. At this early stage, it is difficult to predict how the pay-for-performance concept will end up being implemented within the Medicare program, but I am committed to continuing to work with Dr. McClellan, my colleagues in Congress, and the medical community as we continue to develop this idea. As always, it is my hope that the final outcome will be what is best for patients in both the short and long term.
JOP: What are your predictions for pay-for-performance initiatives' affecting oncology?
ND: I applaud ASCO for its continued cooperation with CMS as the Society works to implement quality measures for cancer care, and I encourage ASCO to continue to improve patient outcomes through an increased focus on quality care. How oncology will fit into the pay-for-performance model will largely be determined by the oncology community's input and continued efforts in this area.
JOP: You took over the helm of the Subcommittee on Health at the beginning of 2005 and have already tackled many critical issues affecting U.S. public and private health sectors. What have you identified as major priorities for the Subcommittee on Health in the coming year?
ND: Some of the major priorities include Medicaid reform, prevention of and preparation for a potential pandemic/avian influenza outbreak, medical liability reform, health information technology, reform of the Medicare physician payment/sustainable growth rate, and NIH reauthorization.