Oklahoma Cancer Patients Worry About Cuts To Medicare Caused By Sequester

Oklahomans battling cancer are worried the sequester could impact their treatment.

Tuesday, April 2nd 2013, 9:27 pm

By: News On 6

More than 20,000 Oklahomans are expected to be diagnosed with cancer sometime this year.

But some doctors and nurses are worried the sequester may impact the way those patients get treated.

"It's not a fun deal," said cancer patient Joe Parise.

Once every three weeks, he spends three hours at Oklahoma Oncology, getting chemotherapy infusion treatment, but there are concerns there that patients like Joe may be forced to find a new place for treatment and it all stems from the sequester.

"What do we do, break out the shovel? That's what you're saying, if we got no place to go," Parise said.

The sequester forced a 2 percent cut in Medicare payments.

The CEO of Oklahoma Oncology, Kent Butcher, said that means doctors at community care clinics like his are seeing a 2 percent drop in Medicare reimbursement for the drugs used by cancer patients.

"They're trying to reduce the budget and I understand that probably has to happen. What we're trying to do is say, 'Don't do that on the backs of cancer patients,'" Butcher said.

A recent survey by The Community Oncology Alliance found that 72 percent of the community oncology practices across the country would change the way they deal with Medicare patients if the cuts continue.

2/28/2013 Related Story: TU Professor Says Sequestration Will Affect Everyone

Peggy Strader is also fighting lung cancer. She said she's concerned about how she's going to pay her medical bills.

Her daughter, Susie, said they prefer a community practice over an out-patient clinic or a hospital setting, because of the one-on-one attention. They're worried that will be lost, the longer the sequester goes.

"It's going to cost people and it's going to come down to, 'Do I need this treatment or not?'" Susie said.

Parise is worried about that, as well, and said he hopes lawmakers realize the consequences of the sequester.

"You can't take it out on the people that are sick," Parise said. "I don't know where you get it from, I'm not in the government, but these politicians..."


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