Is Delray Beach’s proton therapy the best cure for cancer?

The city of Delray Beach was so excited that its local hospital will soon have a new cancer cure, it sent out a press release on Tuesday: “Delray Medical Center to Offer Proton Therapy”

And what’s not to like about the state-of-the-art, Star Trek looking device that cure’s cancer – especially those affecting children.

Well, the Wall Street Journal calls it an “expensive and controversial cancer treatment.”

Proton-beam therapy uses positively charged particles to kill tumor cells. Unlike traditional radiotherapy using X-rays, protons treatment minimizes the damage to surrounding healthy tissue.

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Delray Beach Medical Center is getting a proton-beam therapy machines, such as this one in the Czech Republic (Associated Press )

 

Proton-beam therapy centers can cost up to $200 million to build. The cost can be justified for childhood cancers and a small number of adult ones – such as brain tumors at the base of the skull – the jury is still out on cost-effectiveness for most common cancers, the Journal reported.

A 2013 study estimated that for prostate cancer patients, proton therapy cost $32,000 per treatment, versus $18,000 for traditional radiotherapy.

The Delray Medical Center Proton Therapy Treatment Center is estimated to cost approximately $53 million and is scheduled to open in 2018.

The city says the therapy is particularly effective in treating solid cancer tumors including tumors of the brain, spine, head and neck, lung, prostate, colon and some breast tumors.

“Due to its precision and lack of long-term side effects, proton therapy is widely used to treat children,” according to the press release.

In the past five years, proton-beam therapy rooms world-wide have nearly doubled worldwide.  It is also a great marketing tool, giving hospitals more prestige, according to the Journal’s story. Expect a billboard near you soon to tout the treatment at the hospital willing to make the investment.

“We are looking forward to offering this innovative treatment option at Delray Medical Center,” said Mark Bryan, CEO of Delray Medical Center is quoted in the city’s press release. “It is always our goal to incorporate new technologies and techniques that will make treatment safer and less invasive for our patients.”

Proton International out of Louisville, Ky., is going to build the proton therapy treatment center in Delray Beach.

“This will assure local residents won’t have to travel to gain access to this treatment which will reduce the stress and disruption on families,” said Chris Chandler, the company’s CEO.

To read all of the Wall Street Journal’s story click here.

Indicted Delray Beach doctor is focus of $4.8M whistleblower lawsuit

A newly unsealed whistleblower lawsuit alleges insurance giant Humana knew that a Delray Beach doctor for seven years bilked the government through fraudulent Medicare billing for $4.8 million, according to a report this week by the Center for Public Integrity that was published by NPR.

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A billing practice called a “risk score” is what a Delray Beach doctor used to perpetrate fraud, according to a whistleblower lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims that Humana  – which operates some of the nation’s largest private Medicare health plans –  did little to curb the practice even though it could harm patients.

The Center for Public Integrity is a nonpartisan, nonprofit investigative news organization.

The whistleblower suit was filed by South Florida physician Mario M. Baez and accuses Humana and his former business partner, Dr. Isaac K. Thompson, of Delray Beach, in engaging in a lucrative billing fraud scheme that lasted for years.

In Thompson’s case, Humana paid 80 percent of the money it received to the doctor and retained the rest. Prosecutors charged that fraudulent diagnoses submitted by Thompson between January 2006 and June 2013 generated overpayments of $4.8 million.

Thompson was indicted early last year on health care fraud charges and has indicated he would plead guilty.

The whistleblower suit was filed in October 2012 but remained under a federal court seal until Feb. 26.

Humana, which had no comment, is based out of  Louisville and covers more than 3 million elderly patients in its Medicare Advantage plans nationwide. At question in the whistleblower suit is a billing formula called a risk score that pays higher rates for sicker patients.

To read the whole story by the Center for Public Integrity click here.