At groundbreaking, officials say cancer center will impact care, costs

Anjalee Khemlani//October 25, 2016

At groundbreaking, officials say cancer center will impact care, costs

Anjalee Khemlani//October 25, 2016

The groundbreaking for Summit Medical Group’s new MD Anderson Cancer Center site in Florham Park on Tuesday attracted a who’s who in the state, including Gov. Chris Christie, Department of Health Commissioner Cathleen Bennett, state Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean and Cooper Health System Chairman George Norcross.

The new facility, right next to the existing Summit location in Florham Park, will be the home of MD Anderson-certified oncologists and cancer care professionals, and opens the door for Summit to be privy to the more than 1,000 clinical trials and cancer research conducted by MD Anderson.

Summit Medical Group CEO Dr. Jeffrey LeBenger said the goal of the new center is to help lower the cost of cancer care as insurance increasingly shifts cost-sharing to the patient.

“What we’re going to be creating is an ambulatory cancer center,” LeBenger said, adding it was a smart move because 95 percent of cancer care is being driven to the outpatient setting.

LeBenger explained reimbursement for cancer care is higher in a hospital setting. In a world where more patients are increasingly on the line for out-of-pocket costs — because of high-deductible plans — the outpatient setting will save them money.

“So, the patient can afford high-quality health care,” LeBenger said, citing the MD Anderson brand’s reputation for quality.

Margaret Row, vice president of clinical operations at the national MD Anderson center in Houston, said focusing on value-based reimbursements is a key for the center and its partnership with Harvard University.

“In cancer care, it’s a little bit different than in orthopedics and cardiac care,” Row said, referring to the two value programs from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. 

“The challenges outside of a comprehensive cancer care center — where all the care happens in once place — are being able to follow the patient from provider to provider. On the ecocnomic side … insurance companies are pushing for networks, and our model of care is really network,” she said.

Norcross explained that cancer is a capital-intensive business, and the future growth of MD Anderson is targeting Boston and Washington, D.C.

The quick pace of change overall in health care today has also created a demand for more adaptive building — and the cost of building an outpatient center outweighs the overall cost of cancer care in a hospital, officials at the event said.

Clark Machemer, with the Rockefeller Group real estate firm, said the goal of the project is to build something that’s indicative of what’s coming in the future.

“We’re working with Summit and plans that we laid out six months ago, they’re starting to say, ‘Well, you know, health care is starting to change, and how can you adapt those into the building as you’re moving along,’ ” Machemer said. 

That includes anticipating changes in technology and how a building can adapt to those changes when they are implemented, he said.

LeBenger and Norcross both complimented each other’s health care initiatives and success.

“Summit Medical Group represents the best and brightest in northern New Jersey,” Norcross said. “Jeff LeBenger and I are good friends, and I approached him about two to three years ago about partnering, and now we stand here today.”

LeBenger called Camden the “Mecca of health care delivery.”

“George Norcross developed a partnership with Cooper University Health Care and MD Anderson Cancer Center and, now, this relationship is going to extend up north to right at this site,” he said.

Meanwhile, Christie touted the success of the Rutgers University health programs, and the merger with the former UMDNJ.

“We have seen the growth in health care around the state in the aftermath of that decision,” Christie said, highlighting the bipartisan support of the initiative.

“Rutgers moved from the 55th-highest-ranking NIH-funded institution in the country to 22nd in just three short years. What that’s done is, it not only brings more resources in, but it makes Rutgers and those institutions more effective. But it has also created competition,” he said. “That’s what you see happen at Cooper, with the development of all the things happening in Camden. That’s what you see with the combination of Robert Wood Johnson and Saint Barnabas Health. That’s what you see across Atlantic Healthcare and all across all the health care providers in the state to face the competition that the state has helped to drive.”

Machemer said the initial buildout will be done by next fall and Summit plans to open the center in spring 2018.