Sequester inflicts real pain on cancer patients
The mandatory budget cuts are forcing chemotherapy clinics to make a difficult choice: Turn away patients or risk bankruptcy.
According to The Washington Post's Wonkblog, cancer clinics across the country are turning away thousands of patients after cuts that went into effect on April 1 made administering expensive chemotherapy drugs too costly for many facilities to sustain. Clinics are funneling patients to already busy hospitals while saying that continuing the status quo would bankrupt them in six months to a year.
The cuts are particularly troublesome for Medicare patients, roughly a third of whom are losing their treatments as a result. Lawmakers tried to limit the impact on Medicare patients by keeping cuts to the program at 2%. Unfortunately for cancer patients, that 2% is falling almost squarely on the portion of the program that doles out their drugs.
Medications for seniors are usually covered under the Medicare Part D option, which includes private insurance. But cancer drugs have to be administered by doctors and fall under Part B's coverage of doctor visits, which are subject to the sequester cut.
That's not sitting well with clinic oncologists, who are typically paid by the government for the costs of chemotherapy drugs, plus 6% to cover the cost of storing and administering them. Since drug costs are fixed, the sequester cut would come directly out of oncologists' other costs, which makes it a far more potent reduction for doctors.
Oncologists are trying to get lawmakers to exempt cancer drugs from the sequester cuts or, at the very least, reduce only the amount of money doctors take to administer the drugs. Patients, however, don't have time to wait around and see how this turns out. So, they’re already heading to hospitals.
That's going to blunt some of the intended effects of the sequester cut, as research firm Milliman notes that chemotherapy performed at hospitals is, on average, $6,500 more costly than when administered at community clinics.
Even those looking to make cuts to current health care costs say this isn't the best way to make them.
“I don’t think there was an intention to disrupt care or move it into a more expensive setting,” Cathy Schoen, senior vice president of the Commonwealth Fund, which recently released a plan for cutting $2 trillion in health spending, told Wonkblog. “If that’s the case, we’re being penny-wise and a pound-foolish with these cuts.”
this is NOT an impact of the sequester, (incorrectly reported by WP), but rather a decision by K Sebelius (HHS head).
In an effort to reign in health care costs she CHOSE to reduce this spending. Once again the near-sighted wisdom of lawyers/politician who try to legislate what they want to happen and ignoring the Law of Unintended Consequnces.
Currently, I am an elderly cancer patient on chemo in Ohio. After six months of sittiing in the treatement area, I see that most of the people are elderly. So the effect will be the deliberate murder of elderly. I call the politicans murders...especially the GOP!
I previously wrote my Republican congressman about this, his reply was a "Rah-Rah" for Paul Ryan and had nothing to do with this issue. What an "****"!!
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