U.S. doctors are concerned their abilities to handle an expected surge in cancer cases in the coming years as they face cuts to government health plans which includes reduced payments to physicians, will not be enough. As little as sixteen years, cancer will become the leading cause of death in the United States, surpassing heart disease.
This report was brought by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, in which it reads the number of new cancer cases is expected to increase nearly 45% by 2030. That is a jump from 1.6 million cases to 2.6 cases annually. This expected influx of new patients will place a bigger burden upon a field of medicine already stretched thin by physician shortages and financial difficulties. Because of this bleak, and expected, outlook on cancer cases, the group is calling on the U.S. Congress to help stabilize payments to doctors under the Medicare insurance program for the elderly.
Blase Polite, an oncologist at the University of Chicago, had this statement to Reuters, as reported by MSN, on the increase of cancer cases:
What you are seeing from Medicare as well as others is they continue to constrain the revenues to practices. At the same time, the number of patients everyone is seeing is going up as the population increases. Combine that with the cost of the care that we’re providing… It’s really creating a very difficult financial situation.
In another report by CNN, numerous doctors, especially oncologists, are constantly merging so they can connect with a national network of community doctors which enables them to invest in new technologies and receive group discounts on cancer drugs. In return, the group pays a percentage of their practice’s profit to the network. Unfortunately for them, profit margins are becoming slimmer as competition against hospitals, especially in radiation therapy and other services that would diversify their practice, rises. Insurers would attain advantage in contract negotiations. Because of the imbalance, partially for the favor of hospitals, many community practices are disappearing as their members join large hospitals.
Unfortunately for the patient, less community practices means a smaller range for healthcare. They’ll have to travel further, and pay more, if they want their care to be of a higher quality. The president of American Society of Clinical Oncology, Dr. Clifford Hudis simply stated the following:
If you can’t get care, you can’t get good care.
Right now, Congress is weighing changes to the physician payment system that calls for sharp cuts in reimbursement to doctors. The system has not been put into place because lawmakers override the legislation each year. By the end of March, Congress must either repeal the formula or provide a temporary patch. One proposal would replace the formula with a 0.5% annual increase through 2018, followed by a two-track system with either a 0.5% or a 1% rise depending on what system the provider uses. This measure is estimated to increase federal spending by about $138 billion between 2014 and 2024.
Still, a real solution has not been given to oncologist about the dire situation. Ergo, oncologists have taken the problem into their own hands and created CancerLinQ, an electronic health system that will collect and analyze data from millions of patients than provide feedback in terms of standards of care and practices. Its goal is to prevent mistakes before they happen.
Even with the progressive steps oncologists are taking, especially with CancerLinQ, they still stress the importance of lifestyle changes as the primary method of prevention. Simple steps, such as quitting tobacco and controlling obesity (which was reported to be linked to ovarian cancer here on The Inquisitr), reduce cancer causes, which also includes recurrence.
[Image via Wikipedia Commons]