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New Study Shows Cancer Patients Pay More When Their Doctor Is a Hospital Employee

The Scoop

Do you think it matters who pays your doctor's salary? A recent study1 published by the Health Care Costs Institute says it does. 

Findings indicate that patients who are treated at independent clinics pay less for their outpatient, drug-based cancer treatments than those who are treated at a clinic run by a hospital or healthcare system. And, as more and more smaller practices consolidate with larger healthcare organizations, that means patients are footing bigger bills.

Important findings

Cancer is the second leading cause of death, and spending on chemotherapy appears to be outpacing the cost of all other diseases. 

Although patients who use a hospital clinic or a practice affiliated with a healthcare system may benefit from a larger organization’s processes, clinical oversight, and best practices, they may also end up paying a higher price for their treatment. 

The report finds that since 2003, a significant number of outpatient oncology practices have become affiliated, or merged, with healthcare systems or hospitals. 

During that period, spending on outpatient prescription drug-based cancer treatments has also increased. 

The report finds that a 1% increase in the number of medical providers affiliated with hospitals or health systems is associated with a 34% increase in the average annual spending per person.

In addition to charging higher prices for treatments, hospital outpatient departments are adding facilities fees to the bill. 

Who does this affect?

With a growing trend toward high-deductible health insurance plans, patients with private health insurance (insurance not funded by the government) will likely feel the impact of these price hikes.

In time, Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries may feel the pinch too as the government looks for new, cost-effective ways to pay for drugs given at doctor’s offices. Opponents of the government's proposed pilot program say patients will be forced to go to hospital clinics instead of smaller, doctor-owned clinics.

Healthcare consolidation may bring benefits to patients and providers, but it may also result in higher treatment costs and additional fees for patients.