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Medicare cuts could hinder cancer treatment

As a radiation oncologist here in Bel Air, I wanted to share an issue that could affect the cancer treatment of a great many of our friends and neighbors.

Recently, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) proposed a change to the way free standing radiation oncology practices are reimbursed for their services. The end result is a $300 million cut to cancer care, which will have unfortunate consequences for patients who require radiation treatment. Most patients with cancer require radiation treatments in the course of their care.

Free standing radiation oncology practices like mine allow patients to receive beneficial, targeted radiation therapy in a comfortable, outpatient setting. Radiation therapy controls the spread of some cancers and is able to relieve pain and other symptoms. Patients can receive treatment and go home the same day — which most patients prefer over being admitted to the hospital.

The proposed funding reduction for radiation oncology is drastic (the highest percentage cut to any medical specialty) and will be widely felt. Practices like mine will have to make difficult decisions including having to lay off staff, refuse treating Medicare patients, and even closing practice doors altogether.

I have been treating cancer patients for 25 years, and at our two centers in Bel Air and Belcamp, we deliver over 8,200 treatments annually. I am committed to delivering the highest quality care to our community. For the sake of cancer patients locally and nationwide, I urge your readers to contact their members of Congress and ask them to intervene with CMS before this cut is enacted. Battling cancer is a difficult road as it is; we shouldn't make it any harder.

Dr. David Horvick, Bel Air

The writer is medical director of 21st Century Oncology.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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