WASHINGTON, April 1, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following statement was issued today by Community Oncology Alliance:
Today, America's seniors and the physicians who care for them will begin to feel the impact of a federal government policy that was never supposed to happen. Sequestration has been applied to Medicare, reducing payments to physicians and care providers. This is bad news for all seniors, but likely devastating for seniors struggling with cancer. The Administration has decided to apply the sequester cuts not only to services physicians and others provide, but also to the fixed, pass-through costs of chemotherapy and related cancer-fighting drugs used to treat and manage this life-threatening disease.
More than 60 percent of cancer patients in the United States rely on Medicare. A series of misguided Medicare reimbursement cuts has created an unsustainable situation whereby many community cancer care providers operate at a loss when providing treatment to Medicare patients. Medicare reimburses community cancer clinics for chemotherapy based on an average sales price (ASP) and an additional services payment (6%) for administrative costs and financial risks associated with handling, storage, preparation, administration, and disposal of these highly toxic drugs. Unfortunately, Medicare payment falls short, and many cancer clinics are currently paid less than it costs to treat seniors fighting cancer.
Community cancer care providers are struggling to survive in this unsustainable environment. Until recently, more than 80 percent of the nation's cancer patients were treated in physicians' offices in the community setting. Since 2008, more than 1,200 community cancer care centers have closed, consolidated, or reported financial problems. The result has been patient access problems, increased costs to seniors, Medicare, and taxpayers due to the migration of Medicare patients to costlier care settings, and new barriers to care for elderly patients in remote areas. When community cancer clinics close their doors, access to cancer care is compromised for all cancer patients, but especially vulnerable seniors.