Medicare covers half of senior chemo costs

Feb. 5, 2010 at 11:56 AM

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz., Feb. 5 (UPI) -- Medicare covers 56 percent of the costs of administering chemotherapy and related infusion room services to seniors with cancer, U.S. researchers found.

Dr. David Eagle, vice president of Community Oncology Alliance and partner at Lake Norman Oncology in Mooresville, N.C., says the remaining costs -- for essential services provided such as treatment planning, care coordination and follow-up care planning -- are not reimbursed by Medicare, causing many oncology practices to struggle to continue to provide care under the Medicare program, while co-payments and co-insurance is harder for cancer patients to pay.

The study by Avalere Health, a strategic healthcare advisory firm, collected detailed qualitative and quantitative data from 76 community oncology practices across the nation, representing 499 oncologists, in order to quantify the full range of services performed by community oncology practices, including those currently reimbursed by Medicare and private insurers.

"These results are alarming, especially when one considers that about half of all cancer patients are Medicare patients," Eagle says in a statement.

In addition to underpayments for chemotherapy infusion-related services reported in the study, the average oncology practice reported annual bad debt of $500,178, Eagle adds.

The study is being presented at the fifth annual Community Oncology Conference in Scottsdale, Ariz.

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