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A Letter from the President

Don Denton, President of the Tennessee Cancer Patient Coalition

February 4, 2020 — THANK YOU for the outstanding job you did in 2019! Collectively you achieved a major goal that the Tennessee Cancer Patient Coalition (TCPC) has pursued for the past five years. Today about a half-million more Tennesseans have proton therapy insurance coverage as a result of The Proton Therapy Access Act being approved by the State Legislature almost unanimously and signed into law by Governor Bill Lee.

This achievement represents a significant step toward gaining access to this world-class cancer treatment for everyone. Together we defeated the argument made by opponents that proton therapy is too new, investigational and experimental. YOU made a huge difference with your influence!

As a result of your support on a federal level, you are helping future cancer patients have access to proton therapy!  I have some terrific news to share with you. As a result of everyone’s efforts, insurance companies have become more open to providing proton therapy coverage for their policyholders. Turn back the calendar five years ago when we started this effort, and you can see the increased number of cancer patients who have been treated (and covered) by proton therapy!

As a result of our progress, we do not plan to introduce another bill in the Tennessee Legislature in 2020. We have achieved a cooperation level with insurance companies that hasn’t existed in previous years as more studies and compelling evidence and treatment plan comparisons impact an increase in coverage. 

Another fact that you may not know is that the TCPC has assisted other states in their efforts, as three copied our previous bills. In this connection, I’m pleased to inform you that Oregonians now have proton therapy insurance coverage! We are making a difference on a national level.

This year we’ll focus on a much larger stage than just our own state. Currently the proton therapy centers across our country are closely following a proposed new regulation by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMMS) known as the Radiation Oncology Alternative Payment Model (ROAPM). The proposed ruling has no current impact on our proton centers in Tennessee, who are continuing to treat many patients from Tennessee and the region! 

Right now, the cooperative efforts of the National Association for Proton Therapy, individual proton centers from across the country, and other organizations including the TCPC, have successfully educated our government leaders to have a better understand of proton therapy.  We have met with them in their state offices, hosted tours for them at the proton centers and visited their offices in DC.  As more and more proton centers open in the nation, proton therapy becomes more accessible to more people, and we will always support the position of Patient Choice and their right to have access to proton therapy.  There are currently 35 operating centers in the US today!   

The TCPC called upon you a few weeks ago to bombard your U.S. Senators and U. S Representative to stop this regulation. YOUR responses proved remarkable, as we blew away all other states in the number of responses. Tennesseans demonstrated why Tennessee is known as the Volunteer State. I’d be amiss by not acknowledging those of you living in other states who stepped up, too! To everyone who contributed to this successful effort, THANK YOU!

In closing, I urge you to keep up with the TCPC’s website, www.tncancerpatient.org, and also its Facebook page, Tennessee Cancer Patient Coalition. These two resources will inform and educate you about what’s going on in the regulatory arena. We will likely be calling on you again to help out, and I’m confident that you’ll step up again to do so. I look forward to the day when all parties work together to defeat cancer. It’s a noble cause.

Don Denton
President
TN Cancer Patient Coalition