We Told You Alert: Cancer Clinics Turning Away Thousands Thanks to the Sequester

Published on April 5, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-04-05 at 9.45.18 AMGRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Cancer clinics across the country are turning away thousands of Medicare patients– thousands! Why? Well, the clinics are blaming the sequester. Ted Okon is the executive director of the Community Oncology Alliance. He joins us.

Tell me, Ted, why are these cancer centers turning away Medicare patients?

TED OKON, COMMUNITY ONCOLOGY ALLIANCE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Well, the problem is, Greta, is that the sequester cut Medicare across the board by 2 percent. And the biggest problem here with cancer clinics is, unlike cutting services by 2 percent that physicians provide, it’s actually cutting the underlying cost of the drug.

So you’re talking about taking a fixed drug– fixed cost for a drug that a cancer clinic dispenses to a patient, administers to patient, and you’re cutting that underlying cost. So the problem is you have a clinic that’s sitting there and saying, I’ve got a choice. Do I continue on treating these Medicare patients in the clinic as opposed to send them elsewhere, to the hospital for treatment, for example, and incur a loss with each one, and ultimately not being able to treat any of my patients because you’ll to have close the doors, or do I right away think, Well, let me work with my patients as a partner and send them elsewhere for treatment?

So that’s the untenable position that clinics are being faced with right now with this sequester, which actually was implemented for Medicare on Monday.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, now, here’s the thing is I read an article today that said North Shore Hematology Oncology Associates decided they can no longer see one third of their 16,000 Medicare patients. That’s more than 5,000 of their Medicare cancer patients they say they can’t see anymore because of the sequester.

OKON: So that’s the problem. Every practice– and I was on the phone today with over 150 practice administrators from across the country. And they’re almost like deer in the headlights because no one ever thought, Greta, that this sequester would get implemented. No one ever thought that it would get implemented for Medicare. And no one thought that it would ever cut the fixed drug costs in terms of– in terms of that. So practices are deciding what do they do now–

VAN SUSTEREN: You know what, Ted–

OKON: –and it’s a real dilemma.

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