NEVADA PUBLIC HOSPITAL CLOSES OUTPATIENT CHEMOTHERAPY CLINIC LEAVING CANCER PATIENTS SEARCHING FOR TREATMENT - "60 MINUTES" SUNDAY
Bad Economy Spells Crisis for Those without Health Insurance
The economic crisis is hurting society's most vulnerable. For some people these days -- especially cancer patients -- losing a job and health insurance could mean losing life-saving care as cash-strapped public hospitals are forced to cut critical charity care. Scott Pelley reports from Las Vegas, where cancer sufferers were recently told the county hospital would no longer provide outpatient cancer treatments, leaving uninsured patients searching for help. Pelley's story will be broadcast on 60 MINUTES Sunday, April 5 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
Helen Sharp, 63, has been battling lymphoma for eight months. Her illness prevents her from working, she has no health insurance and she has relied on charity chemotherapy provided by the county hospital, University Medical Center in Las Vegas. She was one of 2,000 patients told recently that UMC's outpatient chemotherapy was ending. "I don't want to die. I shouldn't have to die," she tells Pelley. "This is a county hospital...for people that, like me...have lost their insurance [and do not] have any other resources," says Sharp. Click here to watch an excerpt.
Sharp called private cancer treatment centers on a list provided by UMC to ask for help. "One drug is almost $50,000...Who can afford that?" she wonders. After weeks of uncertainty, Sharp was admitted to UMC and given chemotherapy under an exception for inpatients.
Roy Scales, a laid-off security guard, has spent months searching for treatment for his lung cancer. "Where am I going to find help? I am messing with a disease that will kill you." He called the private cancer centers on UMC's list and, of the 25 he estimated he called, none would accept payment from a county medical assistance program. Asked what he was going to do, Scales answers, "Die peacefully." After finally consulting a doctor, he has entered a hospice.
Sharp, Scales and others like them are the indirect victims of a slowdown in tourism revenues in Las Vegas that have greatly impacted Nevada's ability to fund programs like UMC's outpatient cancer clinic. UMC's budget lost $21 million overnight, says its CEO, Kathy Silver. "The hardest hit area for us was the Medicaid budget. We were already...budgeted to lose $51 million....that brought our loss... to $72 million," she says. She has been forced to choose among programs, keeping the ones unique to her facility, like trauma care, and cutting others, such as the outpatient oncology clinic, that are duplicated at private hospitals.
It's bad news for all involved. "The financial situation that we find ourselves in caused us to make some decisions...all of us...would rather have not made," she tells Pelley. "I think this is happening to some degree, probably, in every public hospital across the country," says Silver.