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Radioactive health care debate: MN moratorium on radiation treatment centers

In the Saint Paul Pioneer Press, Christopher Snowbeck reports, “Health care debate that’s radioactive: where to build the region’s radiation treament centers.” Excerpts:

Radiation treatment centers.jpg

“…radiation treatment centers… cost millions of dollars to build and have been the subject of fierce debates in Minnesota about where they should be located and who should be allowed to operate them.
…a moratorium blocks construction of new radiation centers in 14 Minnesota counties, primarily in the metro area.

The ban serves an important purpose, supporters say, in helping the state avoid unnecessary duplication of costly services that might ultimately drive up health costs and the premiums people pay for health insurance.

“Everyone within the metro area is within 20 minutes of a cancer treatment facility,” said Todd Freeman, an attorney who represents Minneapolis Radiation Oncology, a physician group that supports the moratorium and provides radiation services at many hospitals in the metro. “The Twin Cities metro area itself has excellent geographic access for patients as well as excess capacity.”

In a debate that never seems to end – and where most parties have a significant financial interest in its outcome – some think the federal overhaul of the health care system could finally start to change the terms of the discussion in 2014. At that point, operating radiation treatment machines could become much less lucrative.

“Radiation is an important source of revenue for people who own the devices,” said Dr. Timothy Sielaff, president of the Virginia Piper Cancer Institute at the Allina health system. “But the reimbursement paradigm is changing pretty significantly.”

This is vital local and regional health policy journalism. Kudos to Snowbeck and the Pioneer Press for tackling the topic.

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