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Medicare Drug BillWould Severely RestrictAccess to Cancer Carefor Millions of Seniors

Medicare Drug BillWould Severely RestrictAccess to Cancer Carefor Millions of Seniors

Congress is considering a Medicare prescription drug bill that will cut $16 billion of Medicare funding for cancer care-a reduction of about 30% per year-over the next 10 years, according to estimates released by the Congressional Budget Office. Of all new cancers diagnosed each year in the United States, 60% occur among Medicare beneficiaries. If the proposed legislation is passed, government reimbursement for cancer therapies will fall far below the cost of providing care, placing tremendous strain on the community-based cancer care delivery system. "While the cancer community appreciates the importance of a prescription drug benefit and applauds the efforts of Congress to provide better health-care coverage to seniors, the cancer care cuts in the Medicare bill would be detrimental to seniors battling cancer," said Ted Okon, coexecutive director of the Community Oncology Alliance, which represents community-based cancer clinics across the nation Both the House and Senate versions of the legislation severely reduce funding for cancer drugs, while inadequately reimbursing for essential medical services required by cancer patients. If Congress passes legislation with the proposed cancer care cuts, millions of seniors will suffer hardships related to accessing essential cancer care in their communities. "Today, more than 80% of cancer care is provided in a convenient, high-quality, and cost-effective community-based setting," said Steve Coplon, coexecutive director of the Community Oncology Alliance. "The proposed legislation will close many clinics nationwide, forcing cancer patients-especially those who live in rural areas-to travel long distances searching for treatment. What's more, the cancer care facilities that are left will be overcrowded with patients from clinics that have shut down, delaying crucial, life-saving care for patients."

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