On Tuesday, Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) introduced H.R. 1416, The Cancer Patient Protection Act of 2013. According to a press release on Ellmers’ congressional webpage, the bill would reverse sequester cuts to Medicare funding for physician-administered chemotherapy drugs, which she calls “an unintended consequence of sequestration,” and reimburse doctors for any cuts that have affected them since the beginning of the month. The sequester’s two percent cut to Medicare Part B has been forcing community cancer clinics to turn away thousands of Medicare beneficiaries and deny them their treatments.
Although the congresswoman — a registered nurse — claims that the cuts to oncologists administering chemotherapy are simply an “unintended consequence,” they are anything but. The Budget Control Act, which included the sequester, specifically states that Medicare is subject to an across-the-board two percent cut. That’s about as intentional as you can get.
What Ellmers is really saying is that she didn’t realize exactly what those cuts would mean for the well-being of real Americans once they were actually implemented. She voted for the Budget Control Act back in 2011 and was still arguing the merits of sequestration earlier this year. “I do believe [the sequester] will start a very important process that will help our economy to start to grow. The debt that we have at the federal level is our biggest threat for our country,” she told the Washington Post in February.
That’s a shift from the recent rhetoric from Ellmers’ GOP colleagues. Republicans in Congress have been largely brushing off the sequester cuts, claiming their impact has been exaggerated and they aren’t actually a big deal. But now that the cuts are forcing schools, aviation centers, health care providers, and countless other organizations that receive federal funding to make tough decisions in the face of sequestration — decisions that affect Republican constituencies just as much as they affect Democratic ones — it’s becoming clear that abstract numbers on a balance sheet have tangible, real-world effects.