Medicare cutbacks imperil radiation treatment for cancer

Published by Bradenton Herald
Dwight Fitch
August 27, 2012

Nationwide, physicians who provide care to Medicare patients are feeling the impact of significant reimbursement cuts for their services. Radiation oncology practices like mine are no different.

Recently, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in Washington, D.C. proposed a change to the way freestanding radiation oncology practices are reimbursed for their services. The end result is a $300 million cut to cancer care, which will have unfortunate consequences for patients who require radiation treatment as part of their cancer care.

It is estimated that over 60 percent of the 1.6 million new cancer diagnoses in 2012 will need radiation. That is almost 1 million people, friends, family and community members that may have difficulty accessing critical, life-saving cancer care.

In order to provide high-quality radiation oncology care, physicians must have adequate and stable resources available to cover treatment costs, maintain proper staffing levels, and acquire and maintain the equipment that providing effective cancer care requires. Current and proposed Medicare funding cuts destabilize community cancer care centers and put at risk our ability to treat cancer patients in the future.

As a radiation oncologist for six years in Manatee County, and current president of the Manatee County Medical Society, I am very concerned that the recent proposed cuts will result in the closures of freestanding and community-based cancer centers. This would mean limited access for patients, particularly those living in less populated areas.

Radiation therapy is critical with certain types of cancer. Using state-of-the-art technologies, we are able to shrink cancers and help relieve pain and other troublesome symptoms.

For those who have faced cancer, are currently facing it, or will one day battle it, I implore you to contact your member of Congress and encourage them to step in. Cancer is a difficult road, and we shouldn't make it any harder by cutting important funding from patients.

Dwight Fitch, M.D.

Bradenton

See the original article here.