Nightly News   |  April 27, 2013

Sequester cuts hitting cancer patients

Oncologists claim reduced Medicare funding, which took effect on April 1, makes it impossible to administer expensive chemotherapy drugs while staying afloat financially. NBC’s Lisa Myers reports.

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>>> hitting home in many other ways. among them, some cancer patients on medicare are being turned away from doctors officers. lisa myers has that story.

>> 68-year-old caroline davis is being treated for breast cancer in south carolina . but she recently had to start getting her infusions of a costly chemo drug at a nearby hospital out patient facility.

>> it's waiting when i get there, it's just not like here at the cancer center.

>> caroline says all the waitinging at the hospital adds to her level of exhaustion. dr. holiday says his center had no choice when medicare cut reimbursements to doctors who administer those drugs by 2%. some private clinics are finding that harder to absorb than hospitals.

>> approximately 75% of her most commonly used therapeutics cost us more to administer. we can't continue to function that way.

>> and a new york onkole ji clinic decided it could no longer see one-third of its patients.

>> they have to shift their care somewhere is unconscionable and we just need people to fix this.

>> but officials say they don't have the power to roll back the 2% cut and argue the system has been highly profitable for many clinics. in fact, the president's new budget proposes an even bigger adjustment coupled with rebates on drug prices for smaller clinics. a spokesman says this will ensure access and reduce overpayments, but many cancer doctors disagree.

>> the cost of the drug will be the same. the problem is the reimbursement to the physician will be less and the physician potentially will go out of practice.

>> what's more, doctors argue that any savings from cutting their payments may be a mirage because it will push more treatment to hospitals, which studies show usually leads to higher costs for the patient and taxpayers. for caroline davis and thousands like her, this budget battle has already cost too much. lisa myers , nbc news, washington.