Cancer care not affected by Medicare cuts

When the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 cut payments to oncologists for delivering chemotherapy drugs to patients, some observers were worried that it would upend the industry. Policymakers fretted that the changes might encourage doctors to close their practices or stop accepting Medicare patients, which could lead patients to travel farther or spend more time as inpatients. However, a new study suggests that this has not actually happened. Investigators with the Duke Clinical Research Institute (DCRI) found that there had been no major changes in how far chemotherapy patients traveled to be treated or how much time elapsed between cancer diagnoses and treatments.

Researchers with DCRI examined treatment of people with leukemia, lymphoma, breast, lung or colorectal cancer from before the act passed in 2003 through 2006. They found that overall, the amount of time between cancer diagnoses and therapy remained at approximately 28 days before and after enactment of the legislation. The only issue they detected was that after the legislation was enacted, patient wait times grew by up to five days, though it's not known whether this additional time affected treatment outcomes, researchers said.

Despite their findings, it's still not clear whether lower reimbursements will have long-term effects that haven't shown up yet, researchers warned.

To learn more about the study:
- read this HealthDay News piece

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