Sequestration and What it Means for Cancer Patients

11 Apr

My wise, knowledgeable, and kind-hearted friend, The Savvy Sister, posted this information earlier in the week and I think it is too important not to pass along. As a cancer patient, my perspective is different some – maybe even different than yours. If you do not have cancer, you may not feel as strongly about this issue as I do. However, if you know someone with cancer – especially an older adult – they will likely be affected.


[Photo by Christiana Care]

The effects of sequestration on Medicare are very serious for cancer patients. According to an article in the Washington Post, as of April 1, funding to cancer clinics has been significantly reduced forcing some clinics to turn away patients. This consequence of sequestration was unanticipated, but that does not diminish it’s negative impact. According to the article:

Medications for seniors are usually covered under the optional Medicare Part D, which includes private insurance. But because cancer drugs must be administered by a physician, they are among a handful of pharmaceuticals paid for by Part B, which covers doctor visits and is subject to the sequester cut.

It’s not a matter of these clinics fearing they won’t make any profit or being heartless by turning away patients. It’s a matter of these clinics not being able to administer some of these drugs because the amount of funding they get from Medicare for the drugs is less than what it costs to purchase them. It’s simple arithmetic.

Cancer medicines are incredibly expensive…and yet, the are extremely necessary. The Rituxan drug I receive every eight weeks costs more than $9,000 per treatment. My firstline treatment of Bendamustine + Rituxan ran more than $23,000 per treatment.

So, what are Medicare patients doing? If their clinic is not able to treat them anymore, they are now forced to go to hospitals to receive their treatment. This is not the worst thing in the world, however, there are problems with it:

  1. The hospitals are going to reach max capacity in treating patients.
  2. The cost of hospital cancer treatments can often exceed the cost of treatment in a private cancer clinic – and these extra costs will most certainly be felt by the Medicare patient.
  3. The hospitals may not be as convenient as the clinic where the patient currently goes. And let’s not forget the emotional toll of having to switch treatment centers mid-stream.

To someone who does not have cancer, switching treatment facilities might not seem like a big deal. But when you’ve developed relationships with the doctors and nurses who are treating you – when you’ve developed that trust relationship – leaving them would be hard. They are part of your survival support team. Leaving them and starting over with a new team can be traumatic – for patients who have already experienced enough emotional and physical trauma.

We have a lot of problems in this country when it comes to healthcare (we also have a lot of good things like great doctors and nurses and excellent medical facilities). Some of these issues will take time to fix well, but this is one issue that needs to be corrected now.

What can you do about this? Sign this petition. We need 100,000 signatures by April 27. Will you be one?

And let me lastly say, I’m not here to debate or argue politics. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and, as a cancer patient, I have a strong one on this issue. :) But I think we can all agree that no matter what our views are, we all want the very best care for 1) all cancer patients and 2) our senior adults.

Thank you for reading and for signing the petition (if you choose to do so). :)



One Response to “Sequestration and What it Means for Cancer Patients”

  1. The Savvy Sister April 11, 2013 at 7:11 am #

    Excellent explanation Rachel! Very easy to understand. Thanks for sharing. Let’s hope that something gets done fast.

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