Published by Blue Ridge Now
August 16, 2012
Cutbacks in federal Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements to medical facilities will make it more difficult for patients to access quality care as physicians and medical centers deal with less up-to-date equipment and higher costs, Sen. Richard Burr said Thursday.
The congressman took a tour of 21st Century Oncology near Park Ridge Health during a stop in Western North Carolina. The facility provides radiation therapy for cancer patients, said administrator Melanie Rogers, and serves 35 patients per day,
The center's staff showed Burr the various pieces of equipment used to treat the patients, including a CT scanner, a special kind of X-ray machine. Instead of sending a single X-ray through your body as with ordinary X-rays, several beams are sent simultaneously from different angles.
Burr also saw a linear accelerator, a machine that administers precise radiation to a tumor via a laser beam without damaging surrounding tissue.
The technology is all part of the Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy program that is provided to 21st Century Oncology patients.
With price tags of roughly $800,000 for a CT scanner and $2.8 million for a Linear Accelerator, the Obama administration's proposal to slash reimbursements for IMRT hurts health care providers, said Andrew Woods, executive vice president of governmental affairs for 21st Century Oncology.
"The CMS (Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a federal agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) states that this machine (linear accelerator) costs $1.8 million, according to 2007 data, but the actual cost is $2.8 million, so that's a big gap," he said. "We are calling on CMS to not implement these drastic cuts, which would cut IMRT reimbursement by up to 40 percent."
The trip to the Fletcher oncology treatment center was educational in terms of listening to health care providers talk about the challenges they face, Burr said.
"If you are going to slash reimbursements, you've got to cut costs — the question is: do you want latest technology or do you want something that's 10 years old?" he said. "The whole reimbursement methodology needs to be changed. This is about the overall cost of taking someone from being sick to making them well."
Burr's other stops Thursday included Henderson County manufacturer UPM Raflatac and the Western NC Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors in Asheville.
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