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    Some patients elect for self-pay proton radiation therapy (PT) in the United States, but price transparency is a significant concern. The U.S. government recently declared that hospitals must provide a comprehensive list of "standard" charges for all services. Yet, the proportion of compliant proton centers is unknown, as is the extent to which prices vary nationally. We obtained online chargemasters from U.S. proton centers. Technical charges for per fraction delivery of PT of varying complexity were obtained by billing code (77520, 77522, 77523, 77525) and keyword searches. Prices were adjusted for cost-of-living differences using the Medicare geographic cost price index. The relationship between prices for each PT billing code and cost of living was assessed. The interrelationship in cost between codes was examined. The effect of geographic region and other key variables on pricing was explored. Thirty-six proton centers were identified. Twenty-eight (78%) had accessible chargemasters with 20 (56%) listing at least one PT charge. The median prices for billing codes 77520, 77522, 77523, 77525 were $4707, $4712, $5904, and $6690, respectively, with a trend toward greater cost for more complex therapy (77523, 77525; P = .056). Large ranges ($16,863, $16,059, $18,414, $22,143) resulted in ratios of maximum/minimum prices of 5 to 10x. Only prices for code 77522 were associated with cost of living (P = .039). Across institutions, prices for all 4 codes were positively interrelated (all P < .0001). Prices differed between regions (P < .0001) but not by National Cancer Institute designation. List prices for PT differ dramatically between institutions and regions without obvious explanation, raising the concerning possibility that such variation is largely arbitrary. Policy solutions that promote rationalized pricing would greatly benefit this patient population. Copyright © 2021 American Society for Radiation Oncology. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

    Citation

    Rahul N Prasad, Tejash Patel, Haley K Perlow, Vedat O Yildiz, Sujith Baliga, Jeremy Brownstein, Mauricio E Gamez, David J Konieczkowski, Trevor J Royce, Joshua D Palmer. List Prices for Proton Radiation Therapy. Practical radiation oncology. 2022 May-Jun;12(3):e163-e168

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    PMID: 35512990

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