Sequester Cuts Affect Cancer Clinic Funding for Medicare Patients

As a side effect of national sequester cuts, many cancer clinics have been forced to turn away Medicare patients.

As a side effect of national sequester cuts, many cancer clinics have been forced to turn away Medicare patients. Jeff Varcica, chief executive of North Shore Hematology Oncology Associates in New York, said his clinic recently decided they no longer could afford to see one-third of their 16000 Medicare patients.

“A lot of us are in disbelief that this is happening,” Varcica told reporter Sarah Kliff of Washington Post, “It’s a choice between seeing these patients and staying in business.”

According to Corky Siemaszko of the New York Post, sequester cuts will push groups like the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) to refer Medicare patients to hospitals. ASCO and other clinics reason they could face devastating financial strains if they attempt to give Medicare patients the chemotherapy they need, without the federal reimbursement required to fund such treatments. In fact, many of these clinics continue to appeal to the US government for help.

While this upset in cancer care has raised concerns about patients receiving proper treatment, other groups have stepped up to assist Medicare patients while funding cuts are hashed out. The Hill Blog’s Sam Baker reports that The Livestrong Foundation, for instance, is offering a variety of free services to cancer patients affected by the sequestrian:

Livestrong "has mobilized its free cancer support services to help anyone confronting challenges getting access to drugs understand their options and advocate on their behalf to ensure that a needed treatment is not withheld," the foundation said in a release Friday.

The foundation — once the pet cause of disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong — provides counseling for cancer patients, as well as help finding treatment centers and navigating insurance policies.

“We stand ready to serve any person in the US affected by cancer, through our comprehensive, free services that help cancer survivors and their families cope with the financial, emotional and practical challenges that accompany a diagnosis," Livestrong President Doug Ulman said.

As the national debt and sequester continue to impact federal budgets, it will be critical for cancer clinics to consider how they still can provide Medicare patients continued treatment, despite the growing financial restraints they face.