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Sequester (GOP) Blamed for Medicare Woes, Not Obamacare Cutting $714 Billion Out of the Program


RUSH:  Okay, folks, this is classic.  It is classic.  If you haven't heard this, it is in the Washington Post, and the lead of the story is:  "Cancer clinics are turning away thousands of Medicare patients. Blame the sequester."  Oh, yeah.  Yeah.  Don't you see, it's the sequester.  And that means it's the Republicans.  The Republicans are the reason Medicare patients are being refused cancer treatment.  Oh, yeah.  It's not Obamacare.  Of course not.  It's not the fact that, what, Medicare was cut $714 billion in Obamacare.  But it's the sequester.  See, folks, it's not Obamacare.  You cancer patients are being turned away from treatment because of the sequester, because of the Republicans. 

So the way this works is Obama can cut $700 billion out of Medicare, that doesn't hurt a thing. That doesn't cause anything, certainly nothing bad. But the sequester, which does not touch Medicare, is now causing doctors to start turning away cancer patients. 

From the Washington Post article:  "Cancer clinics across the country have begun turning away thousands of Medicare patients, blaming the sequester budget cuts.  Oncologists say the reduced funding, which took effect for Medicare on April 1, makes it impossible to administer expensive chemotherapy drugs while staying afloat financially."  It's just not true.  It just isn't true.  But it doesn't matter.  That's a Washington Post, that's a guideline for the rest of the media throughout the day. 

So guess what?  If it hasn't happened already, it will happen.  Panels will be assembled on cable networks to discuss, not if, but why the Republicans wanted to make sure that cancer treatment was refused to Medicare patients.  Why did the Republicans want so much budget cutting that they would refuse treatment for cancer patients?  And then you'll have your guests, and the roundtable discussion on why this would happen, and of course you'll get all the right answers. 

"Well, the Republicans weren't thinking, or they didn't care, or they didn't know, or they're trying to embarrass Obama, or what have you," and an entirely false premise will be given life, and the false premise will have children, so to speak, and that'll grow. And before it's all said and done, the sequester, which is an entirely Republican idea, which it isn't, it's Obama's idea, is leading to people dying.  Meanwhile, it's Obamacare that cut $700 billion from Medicare. 

I saw the story where Obama, in a show of solidarity with federal employees, is gonna take a 5% salary cut, the sequester.  If he wanted to be accurate, he would ask for a 5% salary increase, because the sequester is not cutting any spending.  The sequester is cutting the rate of growth.  There's new spending.  The sequester is not reducing spending from the baseline.  The sequester is reducing spending to less than what was projected to be spent but still more than last year.  Even with the sequester, we will spend 20 to $30 billion more than without it.  It doesn't matter.  But there are no cuts.  Zip, zero, nada.  So there's that story.  And just keep a sharp eye. 

Washington Post says: "Legislators meant to partially shield Medicare from the automatic budget cuts triggered by the sequester, limiting the program to a 2 percent reduction -- a fraction of the cuts seen by other federal programs.  But oncologists say the cut is unexpectedly damaging for cancer patients because of the way those treatments are covered."  And even those cuts are not real. As the AP says, legislators exempted Medicare and Medicaid from the sequester.  There aren't any cuts in Medicare.  All of this is manufactured and made up.  But the idea here is to -- you've got, what, really in this year, $25 billion in sequester spending that's being reduced.  They're not budget cuts.  It's spending being reduced.  Spending from a projected amount, not, again, reduced spending from a baseline.  The whole idea is Republicans have to be blamed for this.  And it's Republicans causing cancer patients to die. 

Now, what would you do. If you're a Republican, Republican voter, donor, fundraiser, what would you do to counter this kind of thing?  What would you do to get these people who are knowingly, purposely lying about it, what would you do?  Seriously.  Cause everybody says, "Ah, the Republicans, what do they do, sit around."  Well, what would you do here?


RUSH: The Republicans had nothing to do with denying cancer patients treatment.  The Republicans didn't do the sequester.  It was a Barack Obama idea.  The sequester does not feature any actual reductions in spending at all, and yet today the news is that Medicare patients cannot get cancer treatments because the sequester cut money authored by the Republicans, who do not want cancer patients to get treatment.  That's the news of the day. 


RUSH: Here's our oncologist in Dallas.  Dale, I'm glad that you called.  Welcome, I'm glad you held on.  Welcome to the program, sir.

CALLER:  Hi, Rush.  You set me up with the story about the need to apologize, 'cause you screwed up in the Post story.  There is really a cut in Medicare, and here's what it is.  Medical oncologists who see and treat patients in their offices are allowed to charge for the pharmaceuticals which they purchase, a thing called ASB, which is average sales price, plus 6%, which let's 'em break even when you figure the overhead of dealing with the patient.  That's the Medicare situation.

RUSH:  That's right.

CALLER:  There's a 2% cut, and it's not 2% of 6%.  The reimbursement goes down to 4%, plus ASP.  And that means that they're actually absorbing a loss on each Medicare patient they treat.

RUSH:  But wait, that's not what the story says.

CALLER:  Well, I know, but the story didn't get it right, either, I guess.

RUSH:  Well, no, the story says you're turning them away.  The story says you're refusing to treat them.

CALLER:  Well, I can't tell you much about that one way or another.  You gotta take care of the people.

RUSH:  Well, the point of the story is that the doctors are turning cancer patients away and not giving them drugs, not treating them, because of the sequester.

CALLER:  Some may.  As it happens the organization that I'm familiar with is not, as far as I know, doing that.  But here's the deal.  Medical oncologists in community practice in many parts of the country have had to close their offices because they can't do business giving away more than they're taking in.

RUSH:  Well, but that happened before the sequester.  That's just part of Obamacare.

CALLER:  Yeah, but this hit, which reduces their Medicare margin by one-third --

RUSH:  Right.

CALLER:  -- is not acceptable to them and some of them, I suppose, are saying, hey, you're gonna have to go somewhere else to get your care.  I'm sorry about that but --

RUSH:  Let me read to you from the Washington Post story.  You tell me if this is right.  It says here, "Medications for seniors are usually covered under the optional Medicare Part D, which includes private insurance. But because cancer drugs must be administered by a physician, they are among a handful of pharmaceuticals paid for by Part B, which covers doctor visits and is subject to the sequester cut. The federal government typically pays community oncologists for the average sales price of a chemotherapy drug, plus 6 percent to cover the cost of storing and administering the medication. Since oncologists cannot change the drug prices, they argue that the entire 2 percent cut will have to come out of that 6 percent overhead." And they are refusing to treat patients because of that.

CALLER:  The 6% overhead is being reduced to 4% by the cuts that the government instituted.  Oncologists are very upset about that.

RUSH:  Doctor, who reduced the margin?  Who picked this 2% --

CALLER:  CMS sets that.  And it's funny --

RUSH:  Who is CMS?  CMS sets that.

CALLER:  Well, actually that's the division of the Department of Health and Human Services that oversees Medicare.

RUSH:  Right, okay.  So the government's doing this.

CALLER:  Yeah.

RUSH:  All right, well, they're laying it off on you in the story.

CALLER:  Of course.  Why would they want to take the blame when they can get away -- it's like you said, do it and then apologize profusely.

RUSH:  You and I really don't disagree in what's happening here.  The government's laying all of this off on you, and when I say the government, in addition to trying to make it look like the Republicans are responsible for this because it's the Republicans that did the sequester, when they didn't.  The sequester really doesn't have any real cuts from a baseline.

CALLER:  It does in that one sense, and that's why I picked up the phone and called you because there really is a reduction. I'm in touch with my colleagues who tell me that this is a source of great concern for them because they're already closely hauled under margin.

RUSH:  I know.  How close are you to just pulling out of the system because of that?

CALLER:  Oh, you can't do that.

RUSH:  What's to prevent you from setting up your own private practice with cash paying patients, you don't even mess with all this?

CALLER:  I don't think they -- you know, Rush, some of these drugs are really expensive, and I don't think a cash paying patient is gonna be able to ante up 18 grand for a single treatment of certain of the newer, really, really sophisticated anti-cancer drugs.  It just won't work.

RUSH:  How effective are they?

CALLER:  Really surprisingly so.  When you've been around as long as I have, it's wonderful to see that things have gotten better to the degree that they have gotten better.

RUSH:  Okay, but I just want one point of clarification.  I'm not trying to set you up.  Look, if I'm wrong in the premise of the question, feel free to say so.  But I'm looking at this, and it seems to me that the secretary of Health and Human Services could have chosen to get whatever money or not spend whatever money somewhere else. She did not have to cut your overhead.

CALLER:  Wouldn't have made as good a press, though, would it?

RUSH:  All right, well, then you're answering my question.  So it was done purposely to generate a story like this.

CALLER:  Absolutely.

RUSH:  And make you guys look like bad guys, make the Republicans looks like bad guys, make both of you look like you don't care, you're only in it for the money.

CALLER:  I think I was listening to you a few weeks ago when the history of the sequester put it squarely at the front door of our president.

RUSH:  Right.  And he also said during a debate with Romney that it wasn't gonna happen.  But it was also his idea.  It was one of his ideas to make sure that what we're going through now didn't happen.  He thought the Republicans would cave at the thought of defense budget cuts.  He thought they would never, ever let that happen.  And they finally called his bluff on it, and that's where we are.  So now they're in damage control and blaming everybody else, like you, the sequester itself, and then trying to transfer blame for that to the Republicans.  So, Dale, I appreciate your call, I thank you much.


RUSH:  All right.  I just checked during the break, folks, on the sequester, because the sequester specifies specific cuts.  For example, defense and Medicare.  That's the whole point of it.  The question becomes, are there legitimate cuts or just reductions in the rate of growth?  The sequester law specifies that Medicare, the entire universe of Medicare, can be cut no more than 2% for a fiscal year.  It does not say it has to be cut, at least what I was able to peruse during the break.  It says that Medicare can be cut no more 2%, but it doesn't say it must be.  Now, that may be splitting hairs, but nevertheless. 



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