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Fed. budget cuts affecting cancer treatment for Utahns on Medicare

By Randall Jeppesen | Posted - Apr 24th, 2013 @ 5:59pm



SALT LAKE CITY — Cancer centers around the county are having a hard time treating certain Medicare patients because of the automatic federal budget cuts.

Doctors and nurses at Utah Cancer Specialists in Salt Lake treat patients every day. About 30 percent of those qualify for Medicare aid and the federal government helps pay the costs of the very-expensive chemotherapy drugs. But sequestration has resulted in a mandatory 2 percent cut in all medicare payments.

Dr. Nitin Chandramouli with the Utah Cancer Specialists said Medicare does not reimburse them enough to cover the cost of chemotherapy drugs to begin with, and now things are worse due to the budget cuts. They lose money treating Medicare patients who don't have supplemental health care.

"We still manage them, but we have to send them to a hospital infusion center to get their chemotherapy," he said.

Chandramouli said some cancer clinics around the country have closed because of this. There is a bill in congress to remove the budget cuts from cancer care, and the Utah Cancer Specialists are encouraging patients to contact members of congress.

Chandramouli said sending Medicare patients to hospitals for treatment ultimately costs more than it would if the treatment was done in a clinic. He also added that it's very disruptive to the patients to have them make extra trips to hospitals to get care.

The Utah Cancer Specialists run eight clinics around the Wasatch Front and see thousands of patients each month. A spokesperson for the clinics said 40 percent of their patients are on Medicare, and about 100 of those patients could be affected if the automatic budget cuts on cancer care remains in place.

Contributing: Keith McCord

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