Cancer Treatment Centers of America is eyeing a spot in New Hampshire. The for profit chain wants to build a hospital in the Northeast. CTCA successfully lobbied Georgia to change its regulations so a specialty hospital could be built in that state. The company is hoping lawmakers in New Hampshire will make similar changes. A proposed law would exempt specialty cancer hospitals from certain regulations and also from Medicaid taxes. Representatives from CTCA were noticeably absent from a committee hearing on the bill Tuesday, but showed up on Thursday to make their case to lawmakers.
John McNeill, the CEO of the CTCA in Philadelphia, says the business is growing by 20 percent a year and that patients travel on average 300–500 miles to come to his hospital. He says he sees a demand in the New England but the regulatory process in New Hampshire–specifically the Certificate of Need–would keep CTCA out. The process allows the state to determine if there is a need for an additional hospital.
"We view a Certificate of Need process as a barrier that is often used in communities by existing providers as a way of protecting their turf, " McNeill told lawmakers Thursday.
The Business and Industry Association opposes the bill. David Juvet, senior vice president of BIA, says the changes would give these specialty hospitals an unfair advantage. " The problem with setting up different rules for different companies to try to lure them into the state is it's unfair to employers that are already here," he says.
The bill is also opposed by the New Hampshire Hospital Association. Its president, Steve Ahnen, says it would allow the CTCA hospital — which would not take any Medicaid patients — to "cherry pick" higher paying privately insured patients.
"The services that lose money are the ones that everyone wants to make sure we have. Do we have an ER and an ICU, they all lose money," says Ahnen. But these services are subsidized by higher paying patients, he says, and without them, other services could be cut back.
CTCA brought in cancer patient Donna Wolfendale to talk to lawmakers about her experience with treatment. Wolfendale, 52, was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer last spring.
"I was told there was nothing for me at (Massachusetts General Hospital) and my only option might be a clinical trial at Dana Farber," says Wolfendale, who lives in Methuen, Mass.
Her friends told her about CTCA in Philadelphia. She flew down and received aggressive treatment there. She credits the hospital with her survival so far.
"The tumors in my pancreas are gone, the ones in my liver are 80 percent gone. I still have some lesions on my bones, but I am headed in the right direction," she says.
The House committee is expected to vote on the bill next week.