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What Would Super Committee Say About $430M Proton Beam Center War?

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, November 3, 2011

"If proton beam today is not the right way to treat carcinoma of the pancreas, for example, which is an area that is being looked into, then what is?" Eastman says. "We want to be part of the evolution of this technology."

Eastman says research in proton beam also is important to prevent unintended consequences like readmissions. "Whatever Medicare pays for this, they're not going to pay for (excess) readmissions," he says. "So if treatment with proton beam has a lower fistula rate with pancreatic tumors or a lower infection rate or lower chronic radiation fibrosis down the line...we will have a great system to see that."

All good points. So why can't everybody just cooperate? Van Gorder says they've tried to go that route, meeting with every healthcare system in the region and offering to make the proton center "inclusive." In particular, Scripps has offered to collaborate with UCSD.

There have been discussions, Van Gorder says, but UCSD's recent statements indicate, "they're not interested."

I asked members of Scripps' proton beam team whether the situation suggests the need for another certificate of need system, in which a hospital's plans to acquire expensive, redundant technologies would be subject to agency approval.

Of course that won't happen, they say.

It leaves one to wonder how this looks as the nation struggles to cut waste anywhere it can. And again, I wonder what that supercommittee might say about all of this.


Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.
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3 comments on "What Would Super Committee Say About $430M Proton Beam Center War?"


SneakyBooger (11/12/2011 at 7:12 AM)
It's a waste of tax payer money. 80% of the patients being treated at these proton centers will be prostate cancer patients. PROTONS HAVE NOT BEEN SHOWN TO BE ANY MORE CURATIVE THAN OTHER MODERN RADIOTHERAPY TREATMENTS; NOR ARE THERE ANY LESS SIDE EFFECTS. See the NCCN guidelines for prostate cancer at WWW.NCCN.ORG.

Mike Van Doren (11/4/2011 at 10:40 AM)
Cheryl Clark's article superbly exposes the myopic decision-making in health care by "rational individuals" who can then play opossum to the maladies, both human and financial, wrought by their decisions because they were not held accountable in the first place. Without better controls there will continue to be too many such examples of people attempting to have their cake and eat it too, without consideration of who's to pay for the cake in the first place.

Leonard Arzt (11/3/2011 at 4:06 PM)
It is ironic that on the day after the writer, Cheryl Clark, and I talked, Medicare published its 2012 proton therapy reimbursement rates, announcing a 15% bump in finalized proton therapy hospital-based rates. It also called attention to "relative stability"in determining next year's rates. This often sets the standard followed by regional Medicare carriers. So for next year, at least, the roller coaster ride remains smooth,and stable.As well as providing greater access for cancer patients nationwide. Leonard Arzt, National Association for Proton Therapy