Tuesday, July 27, 2004


Sometimes You Wonder If They Even Have A Clue

Medicare Cut for Cancer Drugs Proposed

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration proposed cutting Medicare payment rates Tuesday for doctors providing cancer treatment in their offices, projecting savings of $530 million amid concerns that some specialists would reduce their practices.

Medicare chief Mark McClellan said the government is paying far too much for cancer drugs administered in doctors' offices — up to 50 percent more than typical sales prices for some medicines used to treat prostate cancer. The changes, to take place in 2005, would make payments competitive with prices negotiated by other health plans, he said.

Cancer specialists' revenues could decline 2 percent to 8 percent, McClellan said.

Drugs dispensed in doctors' offices to treat lung illnesses, for which Medicare pays 90 percent more than the actual sales price, also would be affected by the proposed changes, he said.

"We're going to get more for our money," McClellan said.

Anticipating reductions, some cancer specialists have talked about cutting back their practices and sending patients to hospitals to get treatment.

"With this magnitude of cut, I don't see how a practice can survive taking care of Medicare patients," said David Johnson, a Nashville physician who is president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (news - web sites).

The law called for tying reimbursements for chemotherapy drugs more closely to the price doctors, pay rather than the listed wholesale price. Doctors pay less than that price because drug companies give them substantial discounts.


Mark Sherman, Associated Press

Gee, now the Bush Administration is all concerned about lowering costs.

If that were the case, they certainly could have allowed for a provision in the Medicare bill that would have allowed for Medicare to negociate with drug companies for better prices.

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