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Proton Therapy Center to Get New Owner, Management

An agreement calls for a new owner and new clinical provider for San Diego County’s only proton therapy center amid patient volumes not meeting projections.

In 2014, the California Proton Treatment Center opened the Scripps Proton Therapy Center, with Scripps Medical Group contracted as the patient care provider and day-to-day manager. Proton therapy involves targeted radiation to treat tumors.

Fast-forward to March of this year, and ownership of the California Proton Treatment Center filed for bankruptcy.

In December, an organization with a similar name — California Proton Therapy Center — is slated to take over as owner. It will contract with Proton Doctors Professional Corp. as the new clinical provider. The organizations are working to ensure there will be a smooth transition and uninterrupted care, according to Scripps Health.

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“This is a business decision being made by the new owner,” Scripps said in a statement in response to San Diego Business Journal questions.

The change of ownership, announced recently, is subject to approval from a federal court overseeing the bankruptcy proceedings.

Late last year, Scripps embarked on a strategy to increase the number of patient treatments without prior insurance authorization and also tried harder to win reimbursement afterward. At that time, it stressed that insured patients would not be held responsible if their health plan didn’t pay for the services.

After the policy was instituted, there was a 15 percent to 20 percent increase in patient volumes. In 2017, the number of patients hovered around 60 to 70 each month.

But in March, Scripps President and CEO Chris Van Gorder told the San Diego Business Journal that the facility needs a steady flow of 130 to 140 patients to thrive.

“The center’s original owner, California Proton Treatment Center, set the patient volume goals, and those projections have not aligned with the actual number of patients treated, which to date has been more than 1,400,” Scripps’ statement said.

The statement goes on to say that patient volumes have been the same or better than those of other long-established proton centers nationally. In addition, a few months before the center’s opening, a major insurer announced it would drop coverage for proton therapy to treat early-stage prostate cancer, and patient access to proton therapy became increasingly difficult because treatment protocols became more conservative.

Scripps said it has been successful with appeals to insurance companies for reimbursements for those without prior insurance approval.

“To date, we have gained reimbursements for the majority of these cases. The insurance appeals process can take several months and the process is continuing at Scripps, so we don’t have more definitive data to share at this time,” Scripps said in the statement.

Neither the California Proton Treatment Center, nor the California Proton Therapy Center, responded to a request to comment.

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