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Make proton therapy accessible

Douglas E. Schoen’s Aug. 15 op-ed in The Hill titled “Too many Americans with insurance are being denied coverage” is alarmingly accurate: far too many Americans are hit with denials while suffering from debilitating and life-threatening diseases.  Schoen correctly points out that having insurance can be of little consequence if your health insurer denies your coverage when you need it most.

Indeed, health-care coverage can leave a false sense of security in the wake of a cancer diagnosis. Increasingly common treatment denials or delays in care leave patients with an extraordinary emotional burden, added unhealthy stress and suboptimal outcomes when time-sensitive therapies are caught up in red tape.

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Because of this troubling national trend with insurance denials, The Alliance for Proton Therapy Access recently launched a national campaign, “Tell Insurers: Fight Cancer, Not Me,” to advocate for fair, fast and transparent insurance payment decision policies for cancer patients in need of proton therapy — a form of radiation therapy that precisely targets cancerous cells with minimal damage to healthy tissues.

Despite the fact that proton therapy has been around for decades and is FDA-cleared, it is frequently denied by insurers — forcing patients to pursue other treatments or resort to paying out-of-pocket. 

The Alliance is working to make sure all cancer patients seeking proton therapy receive fair and timely payment decisions from their health insurers. When patients who need proton therapy are subjected to insurance denials or a long, drawn-out appeals process, they suffer undue health risks, anxiety and financial hardship. 

A core set of patients’ rights, the key tenet of the “Tell Insurers: Fight Cancer, Not Me” campaign, are as follows:

Timeliness. Cancer patients deserve prompt answers about whether proton therapy treatment will be covered by their insurance provider.

Transparency. Cancer patients deserve a clear understanding of why their proton therapy is approved or denied by their insurer.

Fairness. Cancer patients deserve a fair determination of coverage for proton therapy, based on the recommendations and analysis of experts in the field, including the treating oncologist.

When it comes to cancer, patients don’t have time to waste on unnecessary bureaucracy. And our insurance industry should recognize that and make a more concerted effort for fair and fast reviews of prescribed proton therapy.

Dan Smith, executive director, the Alliance for Proton Therapy Access, Washington, D.C. 


Pew Research not ‘opposition’

In his Aug. 31 op-ed in The Hill, J. Christian Adams referred to the Pew Research Center as an “opposition” group, and stated that it has provided no solutions to the challenge of inaccuracies in state voter registration records. In fact, the Center does not take positions or make recommendations on any public policy matter.

Research on voter registration has, however, been conducted by the Pew Charitable Trusts, the center’s parent organization. In 2012, a report by the Trusts found that state voter registration processes were often out of date and inefficient. Although inaccurate voter rolls are not evidence of election fraud, the study’s findings encouraged us to work with officials from both parties to modernize voter registration. A key result of that work is the Electronic Registration Information Center, or ERIC, a sophisticated and secure data matching center. Managed by its participating states, ERIC allows election officials to securely share voter registration data to improve the accuracy of their voter rolls. It is a research-based, nonpartisan solution we have been proud to support.

Alexis Schuler, senior director, Pew Charitable Trusts, Washington, D.C.