Hampton University Fights Insurance Companies on Behalf of Cancer Patients for Lifesaving Proton Therapy

Watch Live stream TODAY, August 31st at 11am Eastern on HUPTI’s Facebook page here!

For many cancer patients, access to insurance coverage for proton therapy is a matter of life and death. However, so many patients find themselves locked out as insurance companies still refuse to provide them coverage for this life-saving treatment modality. On Thursday, August 31st at 11:00 am, Hampton University is holding a press conference at the Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute at 40 Enterprise Parkway in Hampton. The message of Thursday’s press conference is clear: enough is enough.

After a long battle at the state capital, the Virginia General Assembly passed a bill in February making it illegal for insurance companies to hold proton therapy to a higher standard than other forms of cancer treatment, such as traditional radiation and chemotherapy, in their coverage determination. This bill, sponsored by Delegate David Yancey (R-Newport News), Hampton University President Dr. William R. Harvey and Bill Thomas, the Associate Vice President of Governmental Relations at Hampton University, emphatically said “you can’t put a price on someone’s health.”

Similar to legislation passed by the Oklahoma legislature, Virginia’s law was intended to provide legal protection should a cancer patient encounter resistance from their insurance provider when seeking coverage for proton therapy. In Oklahoma, over 90 percent of their cancer patients seeking coverage for proton therapy have been denied. Since Virginia House Bill #1656 was passed and signed by the governor with an emergency provision, Virginia patients have repeatedly been denied coverage by their insurance providers.

One Virginia resident who was recently denied was Dianne Weber. After a grueling battle with anal cancer, her doctors recommended proton therapy to rid her of remaining cancer in her aortic bifurcation, a procedure they strongly suggested she have within two weeks to prevent the tumor from growing and potentially spreading throughout her body. On August 16th, Dianne’s insurance provider, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield of Virginia, denied her claim. A week later, they denied her appeal, citing an outdated ASTRO policy from 2014. Their reasoning: they continue to brand proton therapy as “experimental.”

“The assertion that Anthem can’t cover a patient due to proton therapy being what they call ‘experimental’ is a lie.” Bill Thomas said. “If that was the case, why do 9 of the 10 cancer centers with top national rankings and leadership in cancer prevention and therapy offer proton therapy? I have never known the Mayo Clinic, MD Anderson, and Johns Hopkins to rely on anything unproven.”

“This was not what the governor and the legislature intended when they passed this law, that we would have to go through this,” Dianne’s husband, Jack Weber said.

Dianne and Jack Weber, along with a number of other Virginia residents who feel they were blocked from receiving the best possible treatment for their cancer by their insurance carrier solely due to monetary reasons, will be in attendance at Thursday’s press conference to tell their stories and fight back.

Alliance for Proton Therapy Access (the Alliance) recently launched a national advocacy campaign, “Tell Insurers: Fight Cancer, Not Me,” to advocate for timely, fair and transparent insurance payment decisions for cancer patients in need of proton therapy prescribed by their physician.

Dan Smith, Executive Director of the Alliance, said, “Our thoughts and ongoing support are with the Weber family as they continue seeking coverage for Dianne’s cancer treatment. Unfortunately, the struggles the Weber family is facing with their insurer are all too common despite the clinical evidence supporting proton therapy and her physician’s recommendation.  The Alliance recently sent a letter to insurers across the country, calling for timely, fair and transparent review processes for physician-recommended proton therapy, which we hope will shine a light on complex and seemingly arbitrary insurance practices.”

A live stream of the press conference will be available via the Alliance for Proton Therapy Access Facebook page.

“These insurance providers in the Commonwealth of Virginia are still refusing to cover proton therapy, period. Enough is enough.” Bill Thomas said.

“We need to collectively stand up to what is right and support these vulnerable citizens, or are we willing to allow Virginians to needlessly die?

For complete story, please visit the following link: http://www.richmond.com/life/health/with-clock-ticking-virginia-couple-fights-anthem-to-get-wife/article_b40de883-b44a-54fb-9d09-b4952bfff5b4.html/

For additional information, please call (757) 251-6841 or email carolyn.cornelius@hamptonproton.org