Coming Cuts to Your Cancer Care
By Elizabeth Lee Vliet, M.D.
ObamaCare’s promises to cut costs really mean cutting care, especially expensive cancer care, which often occurs at what will soon be the “end of life.” America’s leading position in cancer care will fall off a cliff, taking your life with it.
The “changes” to be forced on us starting in 2013 do not provide “hope.” For cancer patients, ObamaCare’s “change” is a drastic threat to your survival.
ObamaCare deals a body blow to our state of the art cancer treatment. Multiple “hits” in the healthcare bill include: (1) Medicare fee cuts to cancer specialists, resulting in payments that may be below the cost of staying in business; (2) cutbacks in coverage for the screening tests that pick up early cancers, such as prostate specific antigen (PSA), mammograms, Pap smears, and colonoscopies; (3) onerous and costly government mandates and regulations, interfering in physician-patient decisions for allowed treatments; (4) de-labeling (i.e., disapproving) some cancer drugs to save money, already started with Avastin for aggressive late stage breast cancer, and (5) denials of life-saving treatments, copying the UK’s National Health Service rationing board (Dr. Donald Berwick’s stated goal). The UK rationing board (N.I.C.E.) now denies many new cancer drugs for leukemia, multiple myeloma, stomach, lung, breast and prostate cancers.
Other ObamaCare hits to cancer care: new taxes on medical devices and drugs for state of the art treatment; reduced approvals for and delays in access to diagnostic MRIs and CT scans; and a projected doctor shortage of 91,000 in ten years according to the American Association of Medical Colleges, and as high as 200,000 estimated by Merritt, Hawkins and Associates.
Adding a further knock out punch: the worst newly created ObamaCare feature–the Independent Payment Advisory Board. IPAB sets up government appointed experts mandated to control your medical care. This new IPAB subverts our normal appeal and review process because this government panel is completely independent and not subject to review by Congress, judges, or medical experts. Under ObamaCare rules, decisions of the IPAB cannot be overturned or appealed.
IPAB is structured to keep their decisions isolated from our ability as patients and physicians to influence them or to have a voice in our medical treatment.
Even more diabolical, the ObamaCare bill restricts the right of future Congresses to amend or appeal this legislation. There is only a short two-week window of time in late January 2017 during which this board could be discontinued, and only with a supermajority vote in Congress. It is unprecedented to have such an attempt to restrict future Congressional decisions.
It is an ugly picture. Government panels focused on cutting costs instead of saving lives when the USPHS Task Force recommended cutting back mammograms for women in the fall of 2009. Their reduced screening recommendation was not based on new medical information. It was based on cost analysis. They admitted we saved more lives by starting to screen women with mammograms at age 40, but it cost more to save those lives. Your life became a number for the bean counters.
The outcry from women’s groups, cancer specialists, radiologists and other physicians resulted in political pressure that stopped that change. But will we be able to stop it again as costs mount and the new head of Medicare and Medicaid, Dr. Donald Berwick, pushes forward with his stated goal of “rationing with our eyes open”?
Be very clear: ObamaCare cutbacks will affect the quality and timeliness of your cancer care. Ironically and in a cruel twist, it is YOUR taxpayer money being “saved” by rationing YOUR care.
The political elite, however, including members of Congress, who voted for this monstrosity, will continue to have rapid access to the best diagnostic and treatment options, as has always happened with government-run medicine. You suffer the effects of rationing and cutbacks. The political elite do not.
Which will you choose?
(1) ObamaCare promises of “free” healthcare like Canada and Britain…with a shorter life?
(2) You and your doctor keeping the right to decide on life-saving cancer treatment, free of government control…and with it a chance to live longer?
In the United States, we now have a 92% survival rate for prostate cancer vs. the UK’s 51%; a 35% longer survival rate for colon cancer compared with the British; a 25% longer survival for breast cancer than European women; and 50% of the new cancer drugs launched in the last decade. Men in the United States have a 66% survival for sixteen different types of cancer. In Europe, the survival is 47% for the same sixteen cancers. Americans enjoy a 90% survival for five cancers: prostate, breast, thyroid, testicular and melanoma. In Europe, only one cancer in one country has a 90% survival rate (testicular) (France) has a 90% survival rate. World leaders frequently come here for their cancer treatment.
Do you want “change” to mean a higher cancer death rate and lower survival?
On November 2, you decide.