New cancer centres in doubt as insurers say they won’t pay

Plans to build four specialist cancer centres are under threat because health insurers are refusing to pay for the treatment, the Volkskrant reports on Monday.

Health minister Edith Schippers is poised to licence a number of teaching hospitals to carry out proton therapy, a form of radiation treatment, the paper says.

However, there are doubts in some circles about the success of the therapy and insurers have decided to sign a contract with just one centre, the Volkskrant states.


The four planned centres will cost €350m to build and treatment will cost several tens of thousands of euros per patient.

Holland PTC (a joint venture between Leiden and Rotterdam teaching hospitals, together with Delft University) plans to open its clinic in three years. Similar plans are under way in Maastricht, Groningen and Amsterdam.

The paper says health insurers do not agree with the projects at a time of cuts. In addition, they say the technique is unproven. But many doctors say there are real gains for patients and they suffer few side effects from the radiation.


The national health council says some 2,200 people would qualify for the treatment in the Netherlands every year.

Ben Crul, medical advisor to the Achmea health insurance group, said the centres could end up unused. ‘Soon we will invest millions of euros in them and the centres will be empty because better techniques have already been developed,’ Crul is quoted as saying.

Proton therapy is a highly targeted form of radiation therapy

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