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Prescott Valley Tribune | Prescott Valley, Arizona

home : opinions : opinions May 22, 2015

9/5/2012 9:38:00 AM
Letter: Cuts threaten local cancer treatment


As a radiation oncologist for 25 years in Prescott, I am invested in my patients' journey following a cancer diagnosis.

Recently, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the agency responsible for overseeing Medicare, proposed a funding cut of 15 percent to radiation oncology and a 19 percent cut to freestanding radiation therapy providers, the highest-percentage cut to any medical specialty. This would mean $300 million less for the treatment of cancer patients.

If this proposed rule is enacted, freestanding radiation oncology centers may have to refuse treating Medicare patients altogether. They may also have to lay off therapists, nurses and other staff. Practices might even be forced to close.

Rural America is still underserved in many parts of the country and, unfortunately for our center, this proposed rule may mean refusing Medicare patients altogether. Centers across the nation will face critical and agonizing decisions regarding the delivery of lifesaving treatment. If we close our doors here in Prescott, Prescott Valley and Chino Valley, my patients, and those who will face a cancer diagnosis in the future, will be forced to travel 60 miles or more to receive lifesaving treatment.

Our organization is dedicated to serving the quad-city and surrounding areas and to ensuring that all patients receive the care they need and deserve when confronted with a cancer diagnosis. I hope readers will join me in asking our elected officials in Washington to urge CMS to stop the proposed rule that will cut reimbursements for cancer care. It's a small step, but an important one to ensure that our friends, family and neighbors can continue battling cancer close to home and enjoying a high quality of life.

Dirhendra Patel, M.D.


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