The National Association for Proton Therapy (NAPT) is intensifying its advocacy efforts to address a growing issue that threatens timely access to life-saving proton therapy for cancer patients. Prior authorizations and insurance denials have become significant barriers, delaying treatment and putting patients at risk.
According to data released by NAPT, the burden of prior authorizations is steadily increasing. In a 2022 survey, it was revealed that 64% of patients experienced an average wait time of more than five days for prior authorization requests, a notable rise from 48.1% in 2021. Shockingly, 22% of patients in 2022 faced an average wait time of over 11 days, up from 14.7% in the previous year. These delays can be a matter of life and death, as evidenced by a 2019 Cleveland Clinic study that linked each week of treatment delay to a 1.2-3.2% increased risk of death among cancer patients.
In a recent survey conducted by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), 98% of oncologists reported that “patient harm” had occurred due to treatment delays resulting from prior authorization processes. In addition, a 2018 survey by the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) found that 93% of radiation oncologists had encountered treatment delays due to prior authorizations, with 31% reporting delays lasting more than five days – equivalent to a full week of standard radiation treatment.
Patient and physician experiences further highlight the critical nature of this issue. Washington Commanders Head Coach Ron Rivera, who underwent proton therapy treatment for neck cancer in 2020, described the time wasted on arguing with his insurance company as “terrible” and “unfair,” emphasizing that insurance should provide coverage for cancer treatments recommended by their physician and supported by research.
Physicians on the front lines also recognize the urgency of streamlining the prior authorization process. Dr. Mark McDonald of Emory and Dr. Curtiland Deville of JHMI have consistently underscored the need for an authorization process aligned with clinical evidence and emphasize its impact on marginalized communities.
NAPT and its dedicated members are unwavering in their commitment to expanding patient access to proton therapy. We invite you to join us in our mission to break down these barriers and ensure that advanced cancer treatments like proton therapy are readily accessible to those who need it most. For more information, in-depth research, or interviews with the advocates mentioned above, please do not hesitate to contact us. NAPT remains dedicated to championing the cause of cancer patients and welcomes your support and collaboration in this vital endeavor.