Little Effect of Medicare Changes on Chemotherapy

Patient wait times, travel distances for treatment not greatly changed

TUESDAY, July 8 (HealthDay News) -- For elderly patients receiving chemotherapy, the enactment of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 (MMA) has not greatly affected patient wait times and travel distances for treatment, researchers report in the July 9 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Alisa M. Shea, and colleagues from Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, N.C., compared patient wait times and travel distances for chemotherapy before and after the MMA was enacted, using a nationally representative 5 percent sample of claims from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Patients were being treated for breast cancer, colorectal cancer, leukemia, lung cancer or lymphoma.

The researchers found that there were 5,082 cases of these cancers in 2003; 5,379 cases in 2004; 5,116 cases in 2005; and 5,288 cases in 2006. In 2006 compared with 2003, significantly fewer patients received inpatient treatment (8.8 versus 10.2 percent), significantly more received outpatient treatment (22.5 versus 21.1 percent), and a similar number received treatment in a physician's office. In 2006 compared with 2003, average wait times for chemotherapy were not significantly different (0.88 days longer), while average travel distances were significantly higher (by 1.30 miles), the report indicates.

"There have not been major changes in travel distance and patient wait times for chemotherapy in the Medicare population since 2003, the year before MMA-related changes in reimbursement," Shea and colleagues conclude.

Several of the study authors report financial relationships with the pharmaceutical industry.

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