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Looming Medicare cuts mean radiation oncologists might put off purchases

by Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | August 03, 2012
Radiation oncologists say they will put off new equipment purchases and lay off staff in the face of looming Medicare cuts, according to a survey released this week.

The American Society for Radiation Oncology polled its members to find out how they plan to cope with nearly $300 million in cuts called for by the proposed 2013 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule, should the reductions take effect next year.

The survey found 93 percent of community-based practices said they would delay or cancel equipment purchases, while 81 percent said they would lay off nurses and other professional staff. Half of these respondents also said they would sack physicians.

"The proposed cuts will seriously impair our ability to hire additional staff needed, pay for needed new equipment, expand services to provide cancer survivorship support, and efforts to comply with government regulations to achieve e-prescribing and electronic medical records," an unnamed radiation oncologist from Honulu told ASTRO.

Additionally, 35 percent of community-based respondents said they would close, and 64 percent said they would consolidate, should the cuts go through.

The proposed 2013 MPFS, released in July, includes 15 percent cuts to radiation oncologists and nearly 19 percent to free-standing, community-based radiation therapy centers.

While the cuts come from a number of changes — on interest rate payments and other factors — at least 8 percent of the cuts are due to changed assumptions in the time it takes to deliver intensity modulated radiation therapy and stereotactic body radiation therapy, according to an ASTRO fact sheet.

The survey had 599 respondents, but the results given by ASTRO are only from the 58 percent of respondents from community-based centers or mixed community- and hospital-based centers, the group said.

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