Certificate of need won't restrain costly cancer care

State regulations, particularly certificate-of-need laws for hospitals, do not necessarily curb costs for pricey ailments like prostate cancer, Reuters Health reported.

A new study by researchers at the University of Michigan found that oncologists used expensive equipment such as robotic surgical suites regardless of whether their state had certificate-of-need programs or other laws meant to curb costs and healthcare overutilization by addressing the purchase of even relatively inexpensive equipment.

"If the goal is to limit the overutilization of more expensive therapies and to improve efficacy or health, then we have to reexamine how we're doing this," study author Ganesh Palapattu, a University of Michigan urologic oncologist,  told Reuters Health.

The findings highlight the ongoing debate weighing the efficacies of certain cancer treatments versus their costs. For instance, prostate cancer treatments such as proton therapy cause care delivery costs to skyrocket, often even before the effectiveness of the treatment has been studied and benchmarked, according to Minnesota Public Radio.

Using proton therapy costs at least $50,000 per patient, double the expenses of using conventional radiation methods. That's because a proton machine can cost as much as $200 million to build, the article noted.

"Newer isn't always better, and it's important to have a meaningful conversation with your physician on treatment options and which one might be best for you and why," Palapattu told Reuters Health.

Moreover, researchers at Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine found that costs for bypass surgery patients fell 4 percent after states dropped certificate-of-need regulations for open-heart surgery, according to a study published last week in Medical Care Research and Review.

For more information:
- check out the Reuters Health article
- here's the study abstract
- read the Minnesota Public Radio article