Part 5 of six posts today about proton beam therapy. To start from the top, click here.
John Falvey on the cost of proton beam therapy
...I note with interest your remark about the added cost of this type of treatment. As a retired business school prof I would be interested in seeing a comparative analysis of costs of various types of treatment that respond to this disease. You may be interested in knowing that apart from out-of-pocket travel and local living arrangements, all of the medical costs associated with two months of treatment at Loma Linda were entirely covered by Medicare and AARP.
John, I'm glad you mentioned this. Cost was one aspect of this story I wasn't able to address much in the magazine piece due to space constraints. You're absolutely right that Medicare and some insurance companies cover proton beam therapy. However, I've also heard a few people mention that insurance companies won't cover treatment in some cases. I imagine this has to do with the type and stage of the cancer a patient has, but I haven't had the chance to research this fully. Readers, have any of you had difficulty getting your insurance company to cover proton beam therapy?
As for the cost issue in general, I ran across a study that may be of interest. Published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology last August, it compared the expected mean cost of proton beam therapy to IMRT (one of the better types of conventional radiation). The authors conclude that for a 70-year-old man, proton beam therapy would cost $63,511 and IMRT $36,808 on average. They suggest that proton beam therapy is not cost effective and that "consideration should be given to limiting the number of proton facilities to allow comprehensive evaluation." Others argue that reduced side effects would actually lower medical costs down the road, a factor the study didn't include in its estimates. I imagine cost hardly seems to matter when it's your body on the line.