A decade of closures and consolidations has shifted cancer care from community clinics and practices to hospitals and increased costs in the process, according to the Community Oncology Alliance.
From 2008 to 2018, a total of 1,653 oncology clinics and/or practices were affected in the following ways: 423 clinics closed, 658 practices were acquired by hospitals, 168 practices merged or were acquired by a corporate entity, 359 practices reported that they were struggling financially, and 45 practices sent patients elsewhere for chemotherapy, the COA said its 2018 Practice Impact Report.
“The shifting and shrinking community cancer care system reduces access to cancer care, inflates spending at the more expensive hospital setting, and is a disservice to patients, their caregivers, and support networks,” Jeff Vacirca, MD, president of COA said in a written statement.
Crunching the numbers another way shows that 13.8 practices a month have closed, been acquired by hospitals, or undergone mergers since 2008. The number of community clinics that have closed increased by 11.3% since the 2016 Practice Impact Report, and consolidations with hospitals rose by 8%. Practices with financial struggles were down by 7.9% from 2016, “which is proportional to the number of practices that have been acquired or moved into the hospital setting,” the COA said in the 2018 report.
“No one can look at [recent] trends and say that there hasn’t been a clear and negative dismantling of our cancer care system over the last decade,” Ted Okon, executive director of COA, said in the statement accompanying the report. “This situation is the direct result of the misguided 340B [drug discount program] and [the 2013] sequester cut allowed to take place by our elected officials in Washington. The pressures of these misguided public policies have been a one-two punch, pushing and pulling community oncology practices to close, consolidate, or be acquired by hospitals, all at the expense of patients.”