For many families, cancer is the fight of their lives, but the News4 I-Team found some are having to endure another fight they never expected: getting their treatment covered by insurance.
Critics say the insurance industry is prioritizing money over medicine when it comes to a radiation treatment called proton therapy, which uses a beam of protons to target tumors more precisely than traditional photon radiation, so it’s less damaging to the surrounding healthy tissue.
“I think that’s something that people need to understand, that there is an alternative form of radiation treatment out there,” said Ron Rivera, head coach of the Washington Commanders football team and an enthusiastic advocate for proton therapy.
Rivera credits proton therapy as a big part of saving his life. He underwent a month of treatments at a center in Northern Virginia following his diagnosis with neck cancer in 2020. The carcinoma manifested in a lymph node and the back of his throat.
“It can be targeted at specific areas and it can limit the amount of collateral damage,” Rivera told the News4 I-Team. “I was fortunate. We got it early, and it was highly treatable, highly curable at that point.”
As a veteran of the National Football League, Rivera is used to tackling problems with well-designed plays and he says this was no different.
“We asked [the doctor], ‘If I was your brother, what would you have me do?’ He said proton therapy,” Rivera said. “So, we made this plan. They submit the plan, and I get notice I was denied.”