Sequester Causes Concerns for Medicare Cancer Patients

LAS VEGAS -- The government sequester cuts could start impacting some Medicare cancer patients in the Las Vegas valley who may have a harder time getting treatment.

Doctors say reduced funding for Medicare makes it difficult for clinics to afford expensive chemotherapy drugs. Comprehensive Cancer Care of Nevada has a list of 15 drugs that they are now losing money on when they administer the drugs to patients. Some clinics around the nation have stopped using those drugs.

Patients and doctors alike are asking lawmakers to make cuts elsewhere. Sandra Elgin sits in a chair once a week, for hours, pumping experimental drugs into her veins.

"I decided to just go ahead and take it," Elgin said.

The drugs aren't easy to deal with, but Elgin believes she wouldn't be alive without them.

"Cancer is a horrible disease and everybody suffers plenty with it. And without the chemo they would suffer even more."

Elgin's doctors aren't just fighting her cancer, they're also fighting federal cuts to life-saving research.

"This is extremely critical to the senior population," said James Kilber, the executive director of Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada.

He believes federal sequester cuts could cause several smaller oncology centers to close sending those Medicare patients to already bottlenecked hospitals. That's where Kilber says patients could have to pay about $6,500 for treatment. 

"They'll be less oncology care to provide to them. They'll be shifted to the hospitals, higher costs for the patients and higher costs for the taxpayers," Kilber said.

The possibility of losing access to cancer drugs is devastating news to Elgin. She immediately got family and friends to write to lawmakers asking them to stop the cuts.

"I know there's other ways they can cut money spending," Elgin said.

After Elgin's diagnosis, she lost hope until doctors told her how the drugs could help.

"I just wanted them to just let me go."

Now, she and other Medicare patients can only sit and wait, hoping their only lifeline isn't taken away.

 


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