Medicare Drug BillWould Severely RestrictAccess to Cancer Carefor Millions of Seniors

September 1, 2003
Oncology, ONCOLOGY Vol 17 No 9, Volume 17, Issue 9

Congress is considering a Medicare prescription drug bill thatwill cut $16 billion of Medicare funding for cancer care-areduction of about 30% per year-over the next 10 years, accordingto estimates released by the Congressional Budget Office.

Congress is considering a Medicare prescription drug bill thatwill cut $16 billion of Medicare funding for cancer care-areduction of about 30% per year-over the next 10 years, accordingto 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 ispassed, government reimbursement for cancer therapies will fall farbelow the cost of providing care, placing tremendous strain on thecommunity-based cancer care delivery system."While the cancer community appreciates the importance of aprescription drug benefit and applauds the efforts of Congress to providebetter health-care coverage to seniors, the cancer care cuts in theMedicare bill would be detrimental to seniors battling cancer," saidTed Okon, coexecutive director of the Community Oncology Alliance,which represents community-based cancer clinics across the nationBoth the House and Senate versions of the legislation severely reducefunding for cancer drugs, while inadequately reimbursing for essentialmedical services required by cancer patients. If Congress passes legislationwith the proposed cancer care cuts, millions of seniors will sufferhardships 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 SteveCoplon, coexecutive director of the Community Oncology Alliance."The proposed legislation will close many clinics nationwide, forcingcancer patients-especially those who live in rural areas-to travellong distances searching for treatment. What's more, the cancer carefacilities that are left will be overcrowded with patients from clinicsthat have shut down, delaying crucial, life-saving care for patients."