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New bill would reverse the sequester’s cancer cuts

Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) has introduced legislation to reverse the sequester's cuts to cancer clinics.

Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) has just introduced legislation that would reverse the sequester cuts that have led some cancer clinics to turn away Medicare patients.

Medicare has already said it doesn't have the authority on its own to reverse the automatic reductions, which federal law specifies must hit all programs equally.

That essentially leaves it in Congress's hands—legislators passed the sequester, and they're the ones with the power to pass laws to tweak it.

Ellmers's bill would exempt the chemotherapy drugs that physicians must administer to patients from the across-the-board budget cuts. It also directs Medicare to reimburse doctors for any reduced payments made since the sequester cuts took effect for them on April 1.

"As an unintended consequence of sequestration, millions of Americans are facing delayed care for life-saving treatments," Ellmers said in a statement. "By dropping this bill today, we are ensuring that everything can be done to prevent these cuts from going into effect."

As Wonkblog readers and "School House Rock" watchers know, there's a lot of space between a bill becoming a law, especially in an era marked by partisan gridlock. On this one though, there might be some hope for movement. When I spoke with Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) last week about whether Congress could remedy the issue, he figured it would have as good a shot as any.

"I would think oncology care would be one of those incredibly emotional issues that can cut through a lot of the gridlock," Courtney said.

You can read Ellmers''s full bill below, and the original story on the sequester cuts to cancer clinics here.



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Neil Irwin · April 9, 2013

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