Cancer patient changes doctors due to sequestration cuts - WCBD-TV: News, Weather, and Sports for Charleston, SC

Sequestration cuts force Charleston cancer patients to change doctors

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Carol Kelley, 82, has breast cancer.

She has been treated at the Charleston Cancer Center for a year.

"When I come here, it's very caring and a very warm feeling and very supportive," Kelley said.

But because of reduced funding for Medicare, she had to change doctors.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services indicated providers would begin receiving sequestration cuts on April 1 -- cuts that impact people like Kelley directly.

"When I have to go to the other facility, I've been there so many times, and had so many problems," she continued.

Doctors say it impacts the way they are able to administer care and they may have to send a number of patients to hospitals for treatment. They say it's a first for the Charleston Cancer Center.

"We've never turned anybody away," said Dr. Julia Saylors, a partner with the center. "It's really hard for me to think that we may have to do that. But ultimately, we've gotta stay in business."

While a 2-percent cut sounds small, doctors say Medicare reimburses chemotherapy drugs at 6-percent more than the sales price.

That 6-percent is to cover all of the cancer center's overhead, so a 2-percent cut is actually one-third of the revenue that they get.

"You propose a 2-percent cut as a means of saving money," Saylors explained, "but I don't think that they look at the downstream effects of that, because if you close community practices by doing that, then you're shifting care to more expensive places."

That's just one reason Kelley is looking forward to her final treatment.

"I'm just glad it's going to be over," she said.

But others just getting started could fall victim to the cuts.

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