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WLNG
April 05, 2006

"The Other Side"


Oncologist Marilyn McLaughlin of Peconic Regional Hematology Oncology, offered "the other side" during last week's forum on the state of cancer care in the county. Many doctors in private practice simply can't stay afloat if they treat Medicaid patients, according to the physician.

Oncology practices always operate at a deficit, she said, explaining that doctors generally wait about three months for reimbursement from insurance companies. Private insurers eventually do return 100% of the initial outlay, but Medicaid will only give back 10%.

"You want to help," McLaughlin said, offering that some doctors decide they will treat a small percentage of Medicaid patients. "But where do you draw the line and say 'I've helped enough people' and go home and sleep at night?" she asked.

Fiscal realities play too great of a role in treating cancer patients, McLaughlin opined. Patients with cancer who also have financial problems suffer a "double whammy," with doctors put in the position of talking with sick people about insurance options rather than how they feel. "We have to look into their insurance before we can decide what drugs we can give them," she said. "Medicine must be looked at as an equal opportunity for people who are ill."

In addition to subsidies to help balance out losses incurred in treating indigent patients, Dr. McLaughlin called for the creation of an umbrella network or a comprehensive center to assist patients with the myriad aspects of cancer treatment. Advocates may be able to help a patient receive necessary surgery, but there's no system in place to assist with the entire course of treatment needed. Funding for "multiple sub specialties" is required, she said.

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