|Richy Agajanian, MD is in practice at the Oncology Institute of Hope and Innovation with locations in California. He is triple board-certified by the American Board of Medical Oncology, the American Board of Hematology and the American Board of Internal Medicine.|
Will healthcare reform affect my ability to get cancer care?
Many senior citizens are concerned about the effect that the healthcare reform bill will have on them, and rightfully so being that they generally use the health care system more than younger people. Most seniors live on fixed incomes and have little flexibility in their budgets, should health costs rise. As a medical practitioner I share these concerns with my patients. Cancer treatment is a very costly, hands-on practice that requires personal relationships with patients. In addition to what is required of me medically and ethically, I have a responsibility to educate my patients on prevention, treatment, policy and other healthcare matters that affect their lives and wallets. The bill doesn’t contain cuts to conventional Medicare benefits; conversely payments for home healthcare will be reduced by $40 billion between now and 2019 and certain payments to hospitals will be cut by $22 billion over that same period. The savings from Medicare won’t harm patient care. In fact they will improve it. Benefits for seniors will include not having to pay out of pocket for prescriptions in addition to no co-payments for checkups and wellness visits. Much of the money we spend on healthcare goes to treat chronic diseases, which could be prevented if patients received more preventive care. This, of course, also includes screenings for various cancerous diseases. In addition to these advancements to Medicare, there are two provisions within the bill that are of major importance to seniors and those diagnosed with cancer alike. These provisions will help to expand, train and support the healthcare workforce focused on older adults. They include the Physicians Payments Sunshine Act, which is a bipartisan policy that requires disclosure of gifts and payments given to doctors from the pharmaceutical, biologic and medical device industries. This provision will help expose the relationships between doctors and industry and expose conflicts of interest that can arise when physicians receive benefits from drug and device makers ultimately resulting in less emphasis on profit and more on treatment. The Medicare Payment Improvement Act will reform the Medicare physician reimbursement so that it rewards health care providers based on the quality of care they provide. Under this provision, states that achieve higher quality-to-cost ratios will receive an increased reimbursement from Medicare.
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