All In   |  May 01, 2013

Sequester forces clinics to turn away cancer patients

Cancer clinics have started turning away patients as a result of the sequester. Chris Hayes talks about the broad effect so the cuts with Rose Gerber.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> today the president signed into law by now famous faa fix bill that grants the faa special flexibility to deal with sequester cuts a enperhaps most importantly to those who voted on it, ends flight delays. while they have been heard and addressed, millions of americans are still being impacted by the cuts. a new poll released today by cbs and the new york times found that 27% of americans say that sequester is personally affecting them somewhat or a great deal. that's a huge number of americans whose lives are being directly impacted by the sequester and we're only a month and a half into this thing. when you scratch the surface of the latest polling a bit, you start to see a very real measurable difference in how people feel about the sequester depending on how much money they make. 39% of americans whose house hoeltd income is over $100,000 a year say the sequester will hurt the economy, compared to 49% who are less than $100,000 a year who say the same. this gulf in public opinion which is just starting to grow based on personal wealth is why the first bill out of congress to bill with the effects out of the sequester is a frequent flyer bailout bill, not a bill about headstart or make sure the elderly continue to get meals, or even a bill to ensure cancer patients can get medications, which have since become so expensive to administer cancer clinics around the country are turning medicare patients away. while congress is in recess this week, the effects of reckless decisions continue to beat down people around the country every single day, and they have a requirement to fix this thing. accept the normalcy of a post-sequester world as the status quo and we here refuse to do that. so, joining me tonight, rose gerber, director of the community oncology alliance and cancer survivor herself, rose, thank you for joining me.

>> hi, thank you, chris.

>> you were a survivor yourself.

>> yes, i am. i'm actually a ten-year cancer survivor . in fact, tomorrow i'm seeing my oncologist as part of my followup.

>> and you work with folks that are going to these community onkolg clinics, right?

>> that's correct. for the viewers who aren't familiar with what we say, these are the private practices within people's hometowns. this is where the joirtd of cancer treatments are treated.

>> in these cancer clinics, government medicare helps to pay the cost of chemotherapy drugs, which are very expensive, right?

>> right. very expensive. when people are reading about sequestration, they'll focus on the economic terms. it's hard for patients to understand cancer clinics are a small business . a practice administrator had to order your drugs so they were kept in inventory and ready for you when you came in to be treated. so, this is all part of the care setting.

>> so, the clinics, they buy the drugs and then they sell them at a very small markup to patients.

>> correct.

>> and that markup is what allows them to stay in business, essentially, and that's now being slashed by the cuts to medicare that have been part of the sequester.

>> correct. and, again, when you think about a cancer setting, you have your nurses and your doctors and congresswoman ellmers will be in in a few minutes to speak with you, and what we have to recognize as part of the care is the staff, the oncologists that take care of us. i have a close relationship ten years later with my doctor. it's a continuity of care, and the nurses, doctors are there, that's part of your treatment.

>> and so what are you hearing from patients around the country about the effects of this cut, where people are being told that these clinics can't offer the chemotherapy drugs, given that the cut to the price of drugs they are getting from the government?

>> well, it's actually very heartbreaking. we've talked about the economics of it. let's talk about the emotional part of it. just today we spoke to two cancer administrators and patient advocates from our practice. again, these are people that run the practices and patients within the practices. one of our practices, northwest georgia oncology, they have ten locations. 76 of their patients have now had to go into other settings. again, instead of being in their normal place with their normal physicians and doctors --

>> in the midst of chemo, let's be clear.

>> i can remember what it felt like like it was yesterday. you're so vulnerable, so upset, it's the worst time of your life . no matter what you're portraying on the outside, your heart is breaking. you could be a single parent , in this case, we're talking about a medicare -age population. wherever you're at, it is one of the most unsettling times in life, but if you have that care, you have a doctor or nurse that cares about you. and now that's disrupted and you have to go somewhere else . and not only go somewhere else , let's really think about what this means. i spoke to another practice administrator in salt lake city . she has an 82-year-old patient, lymphoma survivor who now has to travel 62 miles. now, for perspective what this means, when i was diagnosed, i was 39 years old, my treatment center, eastern kentucky hematology and onkolg in southeastern connecticut was less than 30 miles from my house. my husband drove me to every appointment. that 30 miles seemed like 300 miles because of my emotional state of mind. seniors --

>> 82-year-old woman is going to have to get herself 62 miles, people in the midst of chemo, tearing up the relationship they have in the midst of this treatment, we're pushing them out of the clinics, which studies tell us cost more. it's not even sound policy. this is what things look like on the ground. rose gerber, thank you so much for coming in and laying this out for us. it's really, really helpful. thank you.

>> thank you, thank you so much.

>>> i want to get reaction to what rose just told me and find out where this vote is heading from a republican and democratic lawmaker