Cancer Treatment Clinic Facing Potential Closure

December 3, 2018

Medicare cuts and budgetary adjustments are driving a Del Rio cancer treatment clinic into a possible closure. The facility, Rio Bravo Cancer and Blood, 1301 Ave. G, Del Rio, Texas, is the only one of its kind in this part of the state, and serves approximately 1,000 patients.

Rio Bravo Cancer and Blood Practice Administrator, Diego Taylor, said budgetary changes approved by U.S. Congress affecting Medicare are reflecting in a 2 percent reduction of the entire Medicare budget from years ago.

The federal administration issued a sequestration order on March 1, 2013, canceling budgetary resources across the federal government. As a result, some Medicare claims incur a 2 percent reduction in payment.

According to the Community Oncology Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to advocating for community oncology practices, in the past decade 423 clinics have closed nationwide, including 47 in Texas.

Taylor said these budget and Medicate cuts have been specifically targeting the drugs used for the treatment of cancer patients.

“This is a budgetary move, they needed a balanced budget, and they ended up taking 2 percent of the entire Medicare budget,” he said.

Taylor said the previous reimbursement formula developed by the U.S. Congress was already lean, reimbursing clinics with very little margin, and the additional 2 percent has taken clinics to the edge of financial feasibility.

Some of these drugs prescribed for cancer, he said, can cost in excess of $5,000 and up to $7,000.

“We send a bill to Medicare, and they reimburse us, but basically we are financing these drugs, so we are not making any money on them,” he said.

Taylor said the current system has put a huge financial strain on small businesses such as Rio Bravo Cancer and Blood, especially when most of the patients they treat are covered by Medicare.

“Nearly 70 percent of the patients we see have some form of Medicare, and all those patients are affected by this,” Taylor said.

The original sequester was issued in 2011, but it was until 2013 the federal government enacted this measure.

Taylor said for small clinics this situation has been like “death by a 1,000 cuts.”

“Data shows that over the past five years we’ve had five clinics closing per month.”

Taylor urged legislators to change Medicare reimbursement policies, because this cut is not only affecting clinics but also patients, who will have to travel to some other places to get the treatment they now can access to in town.

“We are not going to be able to operate if there is no change in our policy,” Taylor said.