Fighting cancer and proposed changes in Medicare funding

Tuesday, September 16th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Cancer patients and caregivers will gather on Capitol Hill in Washington DC Wednesday for a "Save Cancer Care" rally.

They’re asking House and Senate members to remove cancer cuts from the Medicare prescription drug bill. The cuts would total $16-billion over the next ten years. One Tulsa woman says without treatment, she can't live. News on Six Reporter Patrina Adger has the story.

“Hello, Ms. Marshall. How are you today?" "Fine, Thank you!" 78-year-old Gussie Marshall was diagnosed with lymphoma last October. She went through four treatments of chemotherapy, and after six weeks, she says the cancer was in remission. "Then after the lymphoma was in remission a lump showed up in the left breast, so it was another kind of cancer."

This past May, Gussie had a mastectomy and every three to four weeks she goes to the Oklahoma Oncology Center in Tulsa for her chemo treatments. For cancer patients like Gussie, chemotherapy doesn't come cheap. It involves a lot more than just picking up a prescription. They need drugs, IV tubing, skin preparation supplies and services of a trained nurse, and all of it comes at a price. Gussie says "one" chemo session costs a little over $9,000.

She gets supplemental insurance with the state, which pays 20%. Medicare pays for the rest. "Without Medicare taking care of their part, I can truthfully say there would be no treatment." The proposed Medicare reform would funnel money into prescription drug coverage for seniors by cutting the amount paid on chemotherapy. Sort of like robbing Peter to pay Paul.

It's that type of reform, Gussie says which is playing with patients' lives. "A person would be hospitalized or end up in death, instead of getting treatment they need and living longer."