Cancer patients need therapy they can’t get
Recently, a legislative task force charged with recommending statutory reforms to Connecticut’s Certificate of Need process submitted a final report that provides a helpful conversation starter for issues around access, cost and community input, among others, within the state framework. Importantly, the final report also recommends that the task force’s work continues for another year, as there is much still to explore, including, I would suggest, clarifying CON parameters, ensuring decision-making transparency, and a consistent rationale for approval of CON applications or, in its absence, defensible reasons for denial.
One case in point: a proton therapy center purportedly to be sited in Wallingford and proposed by the state’s largest health care systems (Hartford Healthcare and Yale-New Haven Health Systems) had its CON approved in April 2022, with, to date, no signs that sponsors are moving forward to develop it. Why?
By contrast, a similar, shovel-ready proton therapy treatment center targeted for Danbury by an independent, world-class team of proton therapy experts was subsequently denied its CON in July 2022.The Danbury Proton Treatment Center has secured approvals from the city, enjoys enthusiastic support from local legislators, and they are ready and eager to build and open a thriving treatment center to cancer patients, save for state CON approval.
The whole purpose of a CON is to reduce health care and medical costs, and bolster access and affordability, especially in areas that lack the infrastructure. Assuming this presumption is accurate, why are Connecticut health care costs skyrocketing, and why has Connecticut created two of the largest health care monopolies under the current CON process? Many see Connecticut’s CON process as falling short of its aspirations. Perhaps this is why in several states with comparable processes, CON reform is on the agenda, including in Alaska, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina. Connecticut, thankfully with this year’s task force, is joining in this added scrutiny.
To delay or deny our residents additional access to life-saving cancer treatment — treatment that our state has already deemed safe and effective in treating those suffering from cancer — is short-sighted. Cancer doesn’t wait and lives are on the line.
If the Wallingford facility is ever built, it will not begin to meet the demand of the state’s patient load. By denying Danbury Proton’s CON, the state is creating a monopoly that will limit access and competition, and increase the cost of treatments for those who are lucky enough to get it in time. Danbury Proton will help bring revolutionary, life-saving cancer treatment for Connecticut. This is a $90 million-plus project that is waiting in the starting gate, does not need state subsidy, guarantees over 100 union construction jobs over two years of build out, and 30 high-paying, skilled, permanent jobs thereafter.
We as a state cannot be calling for lasting health care access, affordability, competition and economic development on one hand, while killing a project like Danbury Proton with the other. This is hypocritical and just does not make sense. We all acknowledge health care is not a perfect market, but erecting barriers for legitimate outlets is damaging and runs counter to the access and affordability we all want.
The matter of health care is both personal and professional to me. I am a cancer survivor. As a former Insurance Committee legislative co-chair and speaker of the House, Danbury Proton is exactly the type of project state government should support.
The case in favor of Danbury Proton is clear, and will continue to be made by supporters. It is time to do what is right for Connecticut. Give Danbury Proton CON approval so we can invest millions in Connecticut and potentially save thousands of lives.