The head of Groningen University’s teaching hospital has accused health insurance companies of acting as a cartel by delaying the development of four new centres for treating cancer with proton therapy.
The Dutch competition authority ACM is already investigating the insurers’ potential cartel at their own request, the Financieele Dagblad reports on Friday.
UMCG chief Jos Aartsen says the insurance companies are ‘only driven by finance’. He has now started looking for backers to set up the centre despite not having health insurance company agreement on paying for the treatment.
Health minister Edith Schippers gave four hospitals licences to develop proton therapy centres in 2013. They would have capacity to treat 2,200 patients a year.
Health insurers say they doubt that many patients will qualify for the treatment and say they support the development of one centre in the Netherlands. Other patients could be send abroad for treatment, a spokesman for the Dutch insurers’ association told the FD.
Aartsen says this is not a good solution because patients will have to spend 10 weeks in another country and are not fully covered by insurance for this.
‘A centre costs €70-€80m so you know the cost will be €30,000 to €40,000 for a treatment programme,’ he said. ‘That is why the insurers have said “let us first start off with one”.’
He says the insurers’ decision just to back one centre is illegal and the result of forming a cartel. The insurers themselves will not take a final decision on their position until the ACM has completed its research in a few months time.
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