Sequester is Killing Cancer Patients


“A lot of us are in disbelief
that this is happening.
It’s a choice between seeing these patients
and staying in business.”
Jeff Vacirca

The Chief Executive of North Shore Hematology Oncology Associates in New York, Vacirca’s consternation is shared by oncology clinics across the nation. He states that if he did not turn away Medicare patients seeking cancer treatment with expensive drugs, “we’d be out of business in six months to a year.”

The sequester is an indiscriminate across-the-board Congressional cut which hurts some providers much more than others. As oncology clinics are paid six percent of the fixed price of a drug to cover their operating costs, a two percent cut reduces their funding by one third.

The result of this massive cut is that these Medicare patients being turned away must seek cancer treatment at hospitals. It is unclear whether our nation’s hospitals have the capacity to treat the thousands in need. Indeed, 66% of our nation’s cancer patients receive their drug treatments at oncology clinics.

Even if hospitals can meet the need, a study finds the cost increase is an average of $6500 a year and the patient pays 10% of this increase. Today on Weekends with Alex Witt, Health Care Reporter Sarah Kliff concludes, “So this law that was supposed to save the government money is actually going to make chemotherapy more expensive in Medicare.”

In addition to financial queries, other urgent questions include: How many will suffer from the disruption of their treatments? How many family members will be harmed by the distress this causes? How many patients will die?

My take: Government spending cuts cause acute distress and harm to those who can least afford them. More often than we realize, these cuts are also death warrants.

Rev. Rix welcomes comments at Quoflections@gmail.com. © 2013 Harry Rix. All rights reserved.

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