Cancer clinics across the country have begun turning away thousands of Medicare patients, blaming the sequester budget cuts.
Oncologists say the reduced funding, which took effect for Medicare on April 1, makes it impossible to administer expensive chemotherapy drugs while staying afloat financially.
Patients at these clinics would need to seek treatment elsewhere, such as at hospitals that might not have the capacity to accommodate them.
“If we treated the patients receiving the most expensive drugs, we’d be out of business in six months to a year,” said Jeff Vacirca, chief executive of North Shore Hematology Oncology Associates in New York. “The drugs we’re going to lose money on we’re not going to administer right now.”
After an emergency meeting Tuesday, Vacirca’s clinics decided that they would no longer see one-third of their 16,000 Medicare patients.
“A lot of us are in disbelief that this is happening,” he said. “It’s a choice between seeing these patients and staying in business.”
Some who have been pushing the federal government to spend less on health care say this is not the right approach.
“I don’t think there was an intention to disrupt care or move it into a more expensive setting,” said Cathy Schoen, senior vice president of the Commonwealth Fund, which recently released a plan for cutting $2 trillion in health spending. “If that’s the case, we’re being penny-wise and a pound-foolish with these cuts.”