The Newnan Times-Herald


New legislation may lift restrictions on local cancer center

  • By Maggie Bowers
  • |
  • Feb. 10, 2017 - 6:09 AM

The Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) remains firm in the company’s campaign for change in its Newnan operations, as new legislation to reconstruct the state’s Certificate of Need (CON) law was introduced into the Georgia Senate Wednesday.

The new bill, SB 123, sponsored by Sen. Hunter Hill, R-Atlanta, would change restrictions originally agreed upon by hospital officials which allowed the facility a place in Coweta County.

A proposal to build the for-profit specialty hospital in Newnan was accepted in 2008 after legislature amended the state’s CON laws, allowing the facility to be opened in the county only as a “destination cancer hospital.” Georgia hospital lobbyists demanded the classification in order to prevent what was viewed as a duplication of services, a circumstance in which some felt the treatment center would create unfair competition with local, non-profit healthcare facilities already offering cancer care.

Conditions of the classification include allowing only 35 percent of patients treated at the Newnan location to reside in Georgia. In addition, CTCA officials also agreed to a maximum of 50 beds available for patients.

The treatment center has experienced exponential growth in the community since its opening nearly five years ago and, according to CTCA officials, those terms are no longer acceptable, and are forcing the hospital to turn away Georgia patients hoping to receive care at the local facility.  

Officials have made several bids to remove CON restrictions, including a motion to reclassify as an acute-care facility in 2015. The previous pursuit, according to CTCA lobbyist Ray Williams, was a regulatory attempt at reclassification. That endeavor having failed, officials are once again seeking a change in legislature.

“In 2017, we are trying a legislative remedy to lift restrictions,” Williams said.

The organization has recently launched a grassroots campaign meant to promote the change in the law by offering patients, former patients and volunteers the opportunity to speak out against the current legislation. The campaign, which includes both radio and television commercials, is known as SpeakNowGeorgia.

Despite the local and statewide support of the campaign which would allow Georgia residents unlimited access to specialty cancer care, many hospital CEOs from across the state maintain a position against lifting the current CON law restrictions. Representatives of acute-care facilities argue that CTCA is attempting to “cherry-pick” the paying patients needed by nonprofit hospitals to offset the cost of treating the uninsured or underinsured.

“As a for-profit facility, CTCA is able to pick and choose which patients they serve based upon their ability to pay, the severity of their case, their age or any screening factor they choose. In doing so, they do direct harm to Georgia-based hospitals, many of which are nationally recognized for excellence in cancer treatment,” said Monty Veazey, president of the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals.

In addition to giving more Georgia patients access to Newnan’s cancer center, the passage of SB 123 would remove the current legislation which allows only one destination cancer hospital in the state. The bill would grant other applicants seeking the same classification an opportunity to propose building additional facilities in the state.