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Medicare costs only cover slightly more than half of chemotherapy costs for seniors, says study

Posted On Mon, February 8, 2010

Cash-strapped senior citizens who are suffering from cancer and are dependent on Medicare health insurance may not be getting the full coverage they need, as a new study has found that almost half of chemotherapy costs are covered through the insurance program.

According to a recent study conducted by Avalere Health for the Community Oncology Alliance, only 56 percent of administered chemotherapy treatments by community oncology practices were covered by Medicare plans for senior citizens.

Instead, the study found that the remaining costs of the treatments - which included planning for future treatments and various required coordination that needed to take place - were forced to come out of the oncology practice's pockets, putting them in increased financial distress.

In total, the oncology practice reported annual bad debt of $500,178.

"These results are alarming, especially when one considers that about half of all cancer patients are Medicare patients," said Dr. David Eagle, the vice president of COA. "The study quantifies what we have known - that cuts in Medicare reimbursement have created a crisis in community cancer care that threatens the very existence of the system that treats four in five U.S. cancer patients."

Since 2004 Medicare has implemented deep cuts into its coverage of cancer drug infusion services, slashing its payments by 25 percent with more cuts expected in the future.

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