Insurers Push to Scale Back Spending on Cancer Care

Health insurance companies have announced plans to change the way they pay for cancer care in an effort to address steep costs and variations in treatment plans, according to an article in The Wall Street Journal.

Insurers across the country have developed treatment regimens for various types of cancer by balancing costs, benefit to patients and side effects. The insurers then compensate oncologists based on how closely they stick to the care plan and how many patients they have on the insurer-developed regimen, according to the report.

WellPoint, the nation's second largest health insurer, plans to begin paying oncologists $350 per month for every patient on WellPoint's recommended cancer care regimen. The new program will initially focus on colorectal, lung and breast cancer, according to the report. 

Critics of the new compensation agreements fear the insurers' efforts to induce physicians to adhere to a standardized care plan for cancer patients will interfere with some oncologists' move towards more individualized care guided by genetics, according to the report.

In response to the opposition, WellPoint has said it does not believe the new compensation plan will interfere with individualized care. "There are always going to be unique clinical situations," and the care guidelines will be updated regularly, said Jennifer Malin, a WellPoint medical director who oversees oncology, in the report.

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