The higher charges come even as a federal program expanded under the health law enables many hospitals to purchase cancer drugs for as much as half the wholesale price, the report said. Yet hospitals can use those less-costly drugs in the oncology practices they bought and charge steeper fees, according to the IMS Health report.
Meanwhile, the proportion of uncompensated care provided by hospitals — a proxy for the proportion of patients enabling a hospital to qualify for discounts — has remained static, the report noted.
Congress created what’s called the 340B Drug Discount Program in 1990, requiring drugmakers to provide medications at significantly reduced prices to health care organizations that treat a large number of underserved people.
A spokesperson for the American Hospital Association said hospitals can qualify for the discount program only if they serve a disproportionate share of low-income and uninsured patients or provide essential services to rural communities.
“Hospitals today face many challenges to maintain the services their communities have come to expect. This vital role 340B hospitals play in their communities cannot be boiled down into a few data points derived from publicly reported information,” according to a statement from the trade group.
A spokesperson from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) said that hospitals and other health centers may purchase drugs at discounts of up to 50 percent if they meet the criteria for the program, but the agency cannot dictate how they use the savings.
Overall, global spending worldwide on cancer drugs reached $91 billion last year, with the United States accounting for $37.2 billion, or 41 percent of that, the report said.
Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.
Tue, May 06 2014