Greenwich Time

Cancer patients need therapy they can’t get

- By James A. Amann James A. Amann is former Connecticu­t speaker of the House and managing partner of Internatio­nal Government Strategies.

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.

 ?? File photo ?? Then-House Speaker James Amann, center, in 2007.
File photo Then-House Speaker James Amann, center, in 2007.

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