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Cancer Center sign
As one of the sequester's unintended consequences, we're getting a map of who and what congressional Republicans give a damn about. Business travelers? My word, yes. Congress moved right away to keep furloughs from causing flight delays. Cancer patients on Medicare? Ehhhh ... I mean, sort of. Republicans care enough to complain a lot, but not like they cared about flight delays. Enough to propose a bill and write a letter, but not enough to pass anything:
On April 19, dozens of House members, including several top Republicans, wrote the acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services about their concern that the cuts may violate the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003. That law sets prices for cancer drugs covered under Medicare Part B at the average sales price, plus 6 percent for administrative costs. The sequester cuts 2 percent off that reimbursement, according to physicians, primarily from the administrative side. [...]

"We are concerned about how this cut will be implemented and if there is any flexibility available to your agency in how the cut is applied to the payments," the congressmen wrote. "Unencumbered access to critical cancer medicines for Medicare beneficiaries is a top priority for us and we would like to work with you to find a path forward that does not result in cancer patients being turned away by their oncologists."

The letter was signed by a bipartisan group including top Democrats—but hypocrisy points go to Republicans since they have supported sequestration as a general concept while complaining about its effects, whereas Democrats generally wanted to avoid sequestration entirely.

According to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the administration by itself can't do anything about the cancer cuts. So will Congress take action? If it does, it remains clear that cancer patients on Medicare come well after business travelers on the Republican priority list. But hey, they're way, way ahead of kids in Head Start!

The idea of the sequester was supposed to be that by cutting everything indiscriminately and making everyone unhappy at cuts to their priorities, it would force a grand bargain-type solution. Instead, Republicans are picking it apart piecemeal, leaving intact the cuts to people they don't care about, like those Head Start kids, while finding quick fixes for the things they do care about, or exploiting them for political advantage by claiming that the Obama administration could magically reshuffle money to avoid uncomfortable-for-Republicans cuts and isn't doing so out of spite. As Jed Lewison wrote about the FAA fix, "The only real solution to the sequester is to simply get rid of it—pretty much everything else is just a debate about who should get punished by austerity." And we know clearly enough where Republicans come down in that debate that we don't need more examples.

Originally posted to Laura Clawson on Fri May 03, 2013 at 09:35 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The Democrats should bring up legislation in (5+ / 0-)

    response to fix (at least) this problem.

    "We the People of the United States...." -U.S. Constitution

    by elwior on Fri May 03, 2013 at 09:47:09 AM PDT

    •  Cancer patients lack the "juice" in Congress, (15+ / 0-)

      unlike airline passengers.   Death and pain matters little as opposed ot the inconvenience of business travelers.  

      The obscenity of much of our political class is exposed by that strange calculus.  

      Join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news and views written from a black pov—everyone is welcome.

      by TomP on Fri May 03, 2013 at 09:48:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  And this guy says the sequester... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        a2nite, Matt Z

        Is all Obama’s fault!

        I'm not sixty-two—I'm fifty-twelve!

        by Pragmatus on Sat May 04, 2013 at 09:32:42 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  It's only half (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          TJ, Capt Crunch

          It's only half Obama's fault with the other half being the GOP.  The "sequester" was the deal worked by Obama with the GOP.  

          So let's stop pretending Obama is a passive victim in all of this.  He negotiated this deal and he agreed to the deal.  Enough of this "but they're picking on Obama again".  This sequester is his baby.  

          •  Uh-oh. More concern trolling. (0+ / 0-)

            The sequester was the only thing the GOP Congress would accept as an alternative to refusing to raise the debt ceiling, which would have brought the financial world crashing down.

            If a man holds a gun to your head and forces you to say "I love shit sandwiches" or he will shoot you, can you really be accused of loving shit sandwiches afterward?

            Please take your concern trolling elsewhere.

            The sequester was ALL the GOP's doing.

            All the current misery in government is the GOP's doing.

            The gigantic debt we are suffering under is the GOP's doing.

            And you are the silly little tool they send out to lie about everything.

            I'm not sixty-two—I'm fifty-twelve!

            by Pragmatus on Sat May 04, 2013 at 10:26:15 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Can you just imagine how toxic that idiot's breath (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          must be?

          Can I get a Grey Goose on the rocks over here?!

          by G Contractor on Sat May 04, 2013 at 10:01:16 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Cancer patients actually have a lot of juice (0+ / 0-)

        Elderly and sick doesn't always equal poor and powerless.

        First off for the poor and elderly and sick, what doesn't get picked up by Medicare gets picked up by Medicaid, and what doesn't get picked up by Medicare or Medicaid gets picked up by Free care.

        Secondly the number of charities, foundations and philanthropies that fund cancer care because someone wealthy got it and left their money in the right places, is indicative of a special interest out there somewhere.

        Third, a lot of cancer patients are kids and if you are human there really isn't much you wouldn't do for kids, yours or anybody else's. As a matter of fact I sort of expect cuts to head start funding to follow a similar track.

        Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

        by rktect on Sat May 04, 2013 at 09:38:20 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  That's not true; the Rs hate people; people are a (0+ / 0-)

          Resource to be exploited or oppressed, hence "profitizing" schools & prisons which are two examples.

        •  The most influential one, American Cancer Society (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          is funded and controlled by pharma companies and physicians who receive money from them.

          It's harder than you realize to run a successful cancer advocacy group that doesn't take corporate money and compete with those who do.

          There are good groups out there, they're just underfunded.

          "If you can't take their money, eat their food, drink their booze and then vote against them, you have no business being up there."

          by Betty Pinson on Sat May 04, 2013 at 10:42:50 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  some pharma companies (0+ / 0-)

            including some that provide chemo therapy drugs that make radiation treatments more effective but cost thousands of dollars, provide grants so that poor cancer patients without insurance or medicare can get the treatments they need to survive.

            I know that cause my wife is in that situation. She was diagnosed just a few months before her 65th birthday which was today. The rest of her treatment will be paid for by medicare and medicaid.

            Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

            by rktect on Sat May 04, 2013 at 01:39:31 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  True, but the chairman of Cancer Treatment (0+ / 0-)

        Centers of America, Richard Stephenson, is a well known right wing nut job, and if you dig deep enough, I suspect you'd find that the reason this particular node in the sequestration saga is getting any press at all is because of his whining to his GOP lackeys.

        Everybody loves free speech until they hear some of it.

        by dobleremolque on Sat May 04, 2013 at 10:11:50 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Very likely (0+ / 0-)

          There are also quite a few for-profit outpatient clinic chains that provide chemotherapy treatment.  

          They're not affiliated with hospitals, they're stand alone, centers.  Many are owned by large corporations or physician groups who make nifty profits and donate to GOP candidates.

          In some ways, it may be better for patients to get their cancer treatment at a hospital instead of a cancer clinic in the strip shopping center between the dentist's office and the tanning salon.  Patients will get better quality health care in the hospital setting where there's better quality control and highly trained personnel who can quickly handle any emergencies.

          "If you can't take their money, eat their food, drink their booze and then vote against them, you have no business being up there."

          by Betty Pinson on Sat May 04, 2013 at 10:49:13 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  At this rate, the right may finally alienate (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    phonegery, a2nite, Pragmatus, pamelabrown

    even their base. Broad brushes tend to paint even that which you were trying to protect.

    "The human eye is a wonderful device. With a little effort, it can fail to see even the most glaring injustice." Richard K. Morgan

    by sceptical observer on Fri May 03, 2013 at 10:33:43 AM PDT

  •  There aren't enough cuss words in the English (6+ / 0-)

    language to describe what I want to say about the Republicans and their sequestration hypocrisy.  I am reduced to making guttural animal noises.



    Metaphors be with you.

    by koosah on Fri May 03, 2013 at 10:40:04 AM PDT

  •  Why aren't Repubs being called out continuously (0+ / 0-)

    for having told us for decades that we don't need government, that bureaucrats are just a bunch of useless twits, that government is operating very inefficiently and it's all just waste, fraud and abuse and yet now we find out that when a couple of percentage points are shaved off the budget all kinds of vital services get cut and federal employees, who apparently are providing lots of critically necessary services, are having to take 10 and 20% pay cuts - why, the Repubs have been lying to us!!!!!

    Why aren't they getting called out on this?

    The elevation of appearance over substance, of celebrity over character, of short term gains over lasting achievement displays a poverty of ambition. It distracts you from what's truly important. - Barack Obama

    by helfenburg on Fri May 03, 2013 at 12:31:42 PM PDT

  •  "I didn't do it" (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    G Contractor, a2nite, pamelabrown, Matt Z

    The standard response from the Party of Personal Responsibility when confronted by the results of their actions.

    Even Bart Simpson owns up when caught. Not these guys. Never.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Sat May 04, 2013 at 09:05:06 AM PDT

    •  And distorting facts to purposely mislead. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      My sister-in-law informed me "Obamacare" caused this problem with cancer care. When I asked where she came up with that screwball notion, she directed me to several right wing blogs where that lie is alive and well. I finally convinced her this cancer care issue was linked to the sequester. She then responded it was still Obama's fault because "Mr. Ryan had a good plan but Obama demanded the sequester instead." I tossed in the towel at that point.

      Can I get a Grey Goose on the rocks over here?!

      by G Contractor on Sat May 04, 2013 at 09:31:01 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  they don't even know what they cut (0+ / 0-)

    try reading sometime

  •  this is why... (0+ / 0-)

    This is why Bill O'Reilly and all the Republicans moan each year that the decadent Democrats are killing Christmas.  

    Republicans expect Santa Claus to visit them every day, offering unimpeded flights, up-to-the-minute infrastructure, full health care benefits, fine schools for their children, gourmet foods (all inspected by the health regulators), glistening jewels and special interest group members tossing baskets of $1,000 bills at them, along with the 12 drummers drumming and so on.  

    Of course -- like little children -- they do not intend to pay for any of their Christmas presents/privileges.  This is why they need Santa Claus and the old and the poor and the children and the vulnerable:  to keep them afloat in ass-milk bubble baths and chocolate bonbons.    

  •  GOP Is Trying To Revive The Line Item Veto (0+ / 0-)

    Haven't we been down this road before?

    There’s always free cheddar in a mousetrap, baby

    by bernardpliers on Sat May 04, 2013 at 09:23:57 AM PDT

  •  That map is metaphoric, no? (0+ / 0-)
    we're getting a map
  •  The bipartisan resolution of the impact (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    of the Sequester on THEIR air travel is a monument as to how quickly those leeches can accomplish something.

    It so very clearly demonstrates how they have to be impacted personally in order to do such a thing.

    And absolutely not until (unless there is some huge political gain for something more symbolic than fundamentally beneficial for all and that will be held off until it can be milked for all it's worth).

  •  if we had a pres (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Frank Dewey, BroadwayBaby1

    and a majority of dems that really cared about the 99% rather than their peers (gop) in wash the gop wouldn't be as much of a problem as they are, but since obama respects the cons more than those that helped get him elected america will continue on the path to something not resembling democracy and we see the signs already.

  •  "Can't do anything?" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    How about loading cancer drugs onto drones and launching them at patients?  That wouldn't require any sort of outside approval, and would fall under the ongoing "unitary executive" doctrine, wouldn't it?

    It's funny to me that anything like wars and arming "insurgents" that the white house favors can happen autonomously and immediately, but anything like helping cancer patients the white house is abjectly helpless to accomplish.

    Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?

    by ActivistGuy on Sat May 04, 2013 at 09:35:58 AM PDT

  •  Do I understand this right? (0+ / 0-)

    The Republican complaint is that the sequester may violate the Medicare bill they passed while holding the majority in 2003?

    So the concern is that pharmaceutical companies may lose both sales and the government defined profit margin established by the 2003 legislation?

    Doesn't seem like the concern is cancer patients but corporate profits.  Again.

    It's amazing what people will do to others in the name of themselves.

    by ABlueKansas on Sat May 04, 2013 at 09:47:19 AM PDT

    •  So True. (0+ / 0-)

      This is so true. The outcry is not for cancer patients, but the profits of the pharmaceutical companies that financed their campaigns. The truth is we must control our spending, but by determining what we spend the money own. In the end reality and reason will win out. An there will be national health insurance (single payer). An yes this will include wage and price controls. For a healthy society is a prosperous society.

  •  It's a perfect strategy when you think about it. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a2nite, Capt Crunch

    They pass bills to protect things that are wildly popular and make them look good, and what's Obama to do?  Veto them and look like the devil incarnate?

    The things they don't care about and won't protect only affect the poor, and the poor exist in the shadows.

    Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed. --Herman Melville

    by ZedMont on Sat May 04, 2013 at 09:51:07 AM PDT

  •  They are defeating the entire purpose of the (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a2nite, Capt Crunch

    sequester while getting exactly what they want, while Democrats lose everything they care about.

    Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed. --Herman Melville

    by ZedMont on Sat May 04, 2013 at 09:52:59 AM PDT

  •  Call me crazy (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Capt Crunch

    Call me crazy, but wasn't the "sequester" the deal worked out by the GOP AND Barack Obama?  

    I see a lot of complaining about the actions of the GOP and they certainly deserve it.  But I see very little "hey Barack, you negotiated another crap deal" in many diaries.  

    Whatever the hell the GOP is doing it is because of another bad decision by Obama.  The GOP's actions didn't come out of the blue.  

    •  I suspect the vast majority of us here at KOS (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      have no intention to call on the president anytime soon to negotiate on our behalf for the purchase of an automobile. His prowess at the bargaining table is, shall we say, distinctly challenged.

      Can I get a Grey Goose on the rocks over here?!

      by G Contractor on Sat May 04, 2013 at 10:19:02 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  nooooooo (0+ / 0-)

    Obama caused it by not cutting Medicare and Food stamps.  That's what Foxnews tells me

  •  The sequester is a bipartisan pain in the ass. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TJ, Capt Crunch

    Republicans didn't ram it down Democrats' throats.

    They didn't have the power to do that.


    Democrats are partners in sequestration with the Republicans, or Democrats are cowardly leaders who don't deserve to govern.

    I think it's better to admit that Democrats are full partners and demand they work the sequester to their advantage.

    Above all: take the fight to Republicans.  Draft and push popular legislation.  Make Republicans vote it down and they make hay of the fact.

    Rinse and repeat.

    LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

    by dinotrac on Sat May 04, 2013 at 10:13:04 AM PDT

    •  I'll still take the sequester over Obama's budget (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dinotrac, Capt Crunch

      Since that appears to be the only two choices.

      •  The sequester takes more out of defense than out (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        of anything else, and the bulk of important safety net programs are exempt from its bite.

        That doesn't make it painless by a long shot, but it provides bargaining position if Democrats want to take it, or it provides ammunition for an election field day if the Republicans fail to act in good faith.

        Trouble is, that won't happen by magic.  Somebody's got to step up and lead.

        LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

        by dinotrac on Sat May 04, 2013 at 10:39:18 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Allow Medicare to negotiate cancer drug prices (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    This is the real problem at the bottom of high cancer care costs - a restriction placed in the MMA of 2003 that has driven up the prices of cancer drugs to exorbitant levels.

    Even hospitals and physicians are protesting the prices.


    Of the 12 drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration for various cancer conditions last year, the experts said, 11 were priced above $100,000 a year. They suggested that charging high prices for drugs that are needed to save lives or improve health is a form of profiteering like jacking up the price of necessities after a natural disaster.
    Any legislator or administration official who isn't talking about allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices as a way to cut Medicare costs is being dishonest.  Period.

    "If you can't take their money, eat their food, drink their booze and then vote against them, you have no business being up there."

    by Betty Pinson on Sat May 04, 2013 at 10:40:27 AM PDT

  •  Republicans have shown the way forward (0+ / 0-)

    Just how do we deal with the sequester?
    I've seen prominent Democrats ask that question. For many the answer is to offer cuts to Social Security and Medicare as kind of a ransom to appease the nasty Republicans.
    That's a stupid way to approach the problem.
    The smart way was always there. It was even suggested by some.
    And it's now being executed by the Republicans.
    The sequester should be dismantled piece by piece.
    This is exactly what the Republicans are doing.
    To me it's sad the Democrats would be surprised at this.
    Here is how to deal with the sequester:
    Offer the Republicans nothing.
    Do photo op after photo op in front of seniors not getting meals on wheels.
    Create news reports and send them out covering Meals on Wheels cuts until funding passes for that. Beat the Republicans silly with that.
    Then move on to the next part of sequester to repeal.
    The entire sequester will never be repealed all at once.
    To keep pursuing that unattainable goal makes the Democrats sound like the Republicans chasing Benghazi - stupid.

  •  You know what we don't hear about? (0+ / 0-)

    Defense cuts.  
    Not even the GOP are crying about defense cuts. Apparently, the cut to the Department of War wasn't nearly big enough. Seems like they just stopped shipping pallets of Benjamins to foreign officials and came out of the sequester otherwise unscathed.

    +++ The law is a weapon used to bludgeon us peasants into submission. It is not to be applied to the monied elite.

    by cybersaur on Sat May 04, 2013 at 10:53:55 AM PDT

  •  Oh gawd. (0+ / 0-)

    Now they are going to micro-manage every single agency of government so that they will reprioritize to avoid any cuts Republicans don't like. The President should reject any piecemeal restoration of funds, which only gives the Republicans veto power over everything.

    If you hate government, don't run for office in that government.

    by Bensdad on Sat May 04, 2013 at 10:54:49 AM PDT

  •  This isn’t hypocrisy, (0+ / 0-)

    it's part three of the Republican strategy...

    When Obama signed off on the sequester bill, he apparently assumed the either/or proposition was so lopsided that not even Republicans would let sequester go forward.  In hindsight it appears they quietly clapped their hands in glee, then let it take hold.  And now whine about every little bit that might hurt them with voters, knowing that the 'ever the nice guy' Democrats can’t stand by and watch the backlash -- specifically built into the bill to preclude this very scenario.  So little by little the Republicans will un-sequester the parts of government that matter to them and let the rest of the harsh budget cuts stand.  Permanently.  If if tanks economic recovery under Obama’s watch -- that’s a bonus.  So far the Democrats haven’t found the fortitude to counter their gambit.  For me it’s like watching a slow motion train wreck.  And so it goes...

  •  remind us all one more time . . . . . (0+ / 0-)

    who bright idea was this "sequestration" thingie in the first place, again . . . . . ?

    I enjoy good ole gopper-bashing just as much as the next guy.  But the sad reality is that while sequestration was the DEM PARTY's idea, both parties wanted the sequester, both parties got things from it that they couldn't get any other way, and neither party has the slightest interest in undoing it.

    Sorry if that's not what we want to hear. Reality can suck sometimes.

  •  Republicans... cancer care cuts they caused (0+ / 0-)

    Remind me again of the name signed at the bottom of the law that's doing this? I'm pretty sure it doesn't belong to a Republican.
    No. It's a Democrat who has often praised St. Ronald of Incompetence and who negotiated a deal even he couldn't have gotten away with in the long bygone days when the Democratic Party still remotely resembled the one that created the New Deal, Fair Deal and Great Society.

    The only thing that sucks as much as Republicans are Democrats who make shit deals with them.

    The modern Democrat is one who promotes old GOP ideas and calls them progressive in comparison to new GOP ideas.

    by masswaster on Sat May 04, 2013 at 04:37:49 PM PDT

  •  Ah the all-important hypocrisy points! (0+ / 0-)

    If only we scored based on hypocrisy instead of, say, votes. And what about style?  Lets not forget that.

    So now whatever repulsion (oops Repubs but I kinda like how iPad had it) want to fund will get funded and no more, right?  

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