State to look at insurance coverage for proton therapy
A state panel will look at how insurance companies cover proton radiation therapy, the type of treatment now done in Virginia only at Hampton University’s Proton Therapy Institute.
The move came in response to proposed legislation that would have barred insurers from holding proton therapy to a higher standard than that of conventional radiation treatment for cancer.
“This is about a level playing field,” said Bill Thomas, director of government relations for the university.
“Patients and doctors should be ones making treatment decisions,” he said.
The General Assembly tends to shy away from ordering insurers to cover specific treatments, largely because insurers argue that requiring them to cover specific syndromes or treatments boosts premiums.
And instead of simply acting on the bill, the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee, with a nod from the university, referred the issue to the state’s Health Insurance Reform Commission.
“You don’t get everything you want in a day,” Thomas said afterward, adding that he was pleased with the committee action.
“It’s a chance to educate the General Assembly,” he added.
Hampton’s proton therapy institute began treating patients in 2010. It treats cancer using a focused beam of radiation at specific frequencies and in stronger doses than in other types of radiation treatment.
Thomas said health care regulators, along with many of the most prestigious medical centers in the nation, have approved proton therapy treatment. He said Oklahoma’s legislature has recently approved a measure like the one to be considered by Virginia’s health insurance commission.