The Sequester Scare Stories Keep Coming, and the President Keeps Flying

Obama on Air Force One

Morning Jolt . . . with Jim Geraghty From National Review ~ President Obama is off to Connecticut today, doing an event at “the University of Hartford where he will continue asking the American people to join him in calling on Congress to pass common-sense measures to reduce gun violence.”

At one hour flight and back, Obama will rack up $359,500 in costs of operating Air Force One. You’ll recall that last week, Obama held a similar event in Denver. The flights to and from Denver, you’ll recall, cost $1 million.

Keep that in mind when you read stories that begin, “Williamson-Burnet County Opportunities, Inc. (WBCO) is being forced to cut back almost $400,000 from its senior Meals on Wheels and Head Start programs due to federal spending decreases caused by sequestration.”

The president and his defenders will argue, “But, you see, we couldn’t do anything about that. The money comes from separate accounts. One goes to the Air Force to operate Air Force One, and the other is for Meals on Wheels.” But to everyone outside the government, this makes no sense. You’re the federal government. Sort out your own budget. Figure out what the priorities are. You keep saying your hands are tied, but you’re the ones who tied them. Spend less on pep rallies and photo ops outside of Washington and use that money to plug holes in the programs you deem a genuine priority.

By the way, here’s one of the big stories in the Washington Post‘s sequester coverage last week . . .

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 . . .

Doctors at the Charleston Cancer Center in South Carolina began informing patients weeks ago that, due to the sequester cuts, they would soon need to seek treatment elsewhere.

Now, check out this account of the same issue from CBS News. (Jeff Vacirca, chief executive of North Shore Hematology Oncology Associates in New York, is quoted in both stories. )

“We couldn’t last for more than three to six months if we were to be in the red on all those drugs that now the reimbursement has gone down on,” said Dr. Jeff Vacirca, CEO of Northshore Hematology Oncology. A one-month course of chemo for one patient could cost $10,000. Medicare reimbursement will now fall about $200 short. “It’s going to be a hardship to patients, their caregivers and really such an increased cost to society and to Medicare in the long run that it makes no sense to me,” Vacirca said.

Wait, Medicare is now $200 short in covering a $10,000 treatment, and there’s no solution that can be found? There’s no way the patients can cover that amount, or the provider can’t delay a portion of the billing, or some charitable foundation can make up the difference? The only solution is to stop treatment? Doesn’t make any sense, does it?

It doesn’t make sense, and at least one angle of this story doesn’t check out. Check out this local coverage in Charleston, contradicting the Post‘s account:

Contrary to a media report, the Charleston Cancer Center is not turning away patients as a result of federal sequestration cuts, an administrator at the practice confirmed Friday afternoon.

Kirk Daniel, chief operations officer at the center, said the practice will continue to treat its patients, including those with Medicare plans. He said The Washington Post inaccurately reported that the Charleston Cancer Center informed some patients that they will need to seek treatment for their cancer elsewhere.

Kind of fascinating that when Medicare implements a 2 percent reduction, the very first place these Cancer Centers implement cuts is in treatment for the most vulnerable, isn’t it?