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Medicare Cuts Will Force Many Cancer Centers To Close, Stop Seeing Medicare Patients, Lay Off Staff, According To ASTRO Survey
Date:7/27/2009

FAIRFAX, Va., July 27 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new proposal from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to cut payments for radiation therapy treatments would cause many cancer centers to close, stop accepting Medicare patients, lay off support staff and reduce services to cancer patients, according to a survey conducted by ASTRO, the American Society for Radiation Oncology.

New technology has allowed radiation oncologists to improve cancer cure rates while reducing side effects. However, on July 13, CMS announced proposed changes to the Medicare policies and payment rates for physician services, including radiation oncology, that would cut payments to radiation therapy services by nearly 20 percent. Community cancer centers, particularly those in rural and suburban areas, would be hardest hit. Running 2008 claims data from a sample of practices across the country showed overall impacts between 18 and 31 percent on the average practice, with some services receiving payment cuts by up to 44 percent. If approved, these cuts would take effect on January 1, 2010.

"Take, for example, Joyce Wittet from Ontario, Oregon, population 11,245. The 79-year-old retired teacher had breast cancer that was easily cured with radiation therapy. Fortunately, there is a cancer center 15 minutes away that accepts Medicare. If the cuts had caused her cancer center to close, she would have had to drive to a hospital nearly two hours away, roundtrip for six straight weeks. If faced with this option, Joyce might have had to choose between mastectomy or expensive travel costs to cure her cancer. Worse still, she might have even forgone treatment altogether until it was too late," said Patricia Eifel, M.D., FASTRO, chairman of ASTRO and a radiation oncologist at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. "We applaud Congress and the Obama Administration for their efforts to improve access to healthcare for mor
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SOURCE American Society for Radiation Oncology
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