Cost of radiotherapy among Medicare patients varied most widely because of year of diagnosis, location of treatment, clinic type, and individual radiation provider, rather than factors related to a patient or that patient's cancer, according to a study published in the Journal of Oncology Practice.
These factors accounted for 44% to 61% of the variation in radiation therapy cost for patients with breast, lung, and prostate cancer, while factors associated with the patient or person's cancer accounted for less than 3% of the cost variation.
"We found that variability in Medicare reimbursement for radiotherapy does not depend on individual characteristics of patients or their cancers," said James Murphy, MD, assistant professor at UC San Diego School of Medicine and radiation therapist at Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health. "Rather, reimbursement was tied to the provider, geography and technology used to treat patients. This strongly suggests inefficiency within the current Medicare reimbursement framework for radiation therapy."
The authors note that they did not evaluate whether higher radiation therapy cost was associated with higher quality radiation or improved outcomes.
Cost of radiation therapy among Medicare patients varied most widely because of factors unrelated to a patient or that person’s cancer, report University of California, San Diego School of Medicine researchers in the Journal of Oncology Practice.