Sequester Has Real Effects For Elderly Cancer Patients


Medicare doctor with cancer patient The sequester is obviously going to result in funding for many federal programs being cut. One of these is Medicare, which helps pay for the medical treatment needed by millions of elderly Americans. While some have speculated that the real effects of the sequester won’t have a big impact on Medicare, the opposite is proving true for elderly cancer patients.

Ever since the measures took effect on April 1st, cancer clinics all over the US began turning away many of their patients. Oncologists are quick to point out why: the reduction in funding for Medicare makes it impossible for them to provide the needed treatments for cancer patients without going in the red. Many chemotherapy drugs are very expensive and so is the cost of administering them to patients.

Before anyone starts to think that oncologists are just being greedy and don’t want to take a small pay cut, it is important to understand how Medicare works for cancer patients. Oncologists working for community cancer clinics get paid the average sale price for cancer drugs, in addition to 6 percent of the amount of the drugs to cover the costs associated with administering the medication to patients.

The government has cut Medicare by 2%, which means oncologists will be reimbursed less money for the medications they purchase. But oncologists have no say in the cost of cancer drugs and the sequester is now forcing many to make a very difficult decision: either they could turn away some of their patients and refer them to a hospital for treatment, or they could continue treating them as normal and incur mounting losses. Many oncologists say that choosing the second option will make them go out of business within a few months. If this happens, this would result in an even worse situation for patients, as all of them would have to seek treatment elsewhere.

Has the sequester affected you or anyone you know? Would you recommend any changes to the way the Medicare cuts have been handled? Be sure to let us know in the comments.

About the author

Hank Pomeranz

Hank Pomeranz is the co-owner of and has been writing about Medicare since 1998. Follow us on Twitter @medicareblog

  • smbug

    If my husband can no longer cover me on his insurance I loose my oncologist of 10 years? I receive Chemo 24/7 Stage IV breast Cancer, 18 year survivor. Repeal ObamaCare!