Hospital charges for outpatient cancer care highly variable, Medicare billing records show
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An analysis of recent Medicare billing records for more than 3,000 hospitals across the United States shows that charges for outpatient oncology services such as chemo infusion or radiation treatment vary widely and exceed what Medicare will pay by twofold to sixfold.

A report of the findings, published in the American Journal of Managed Care on Feb. 17, emphasizes the need for fair and transparent pricing of cancer-related medical services to protect patients from unpredictable financial burdens at a time when they are most vulnerable, according to researchers who conducted the analysis.

“Unwarranted price markups contribute to the skyrocketing cost of health insurance and out-of-pocket costs to patients. We found some cancer centers bill fairly while others engage in outright price gouging of insurers, patients and their employers. Hospital differences in quality or charity care do not account for these dramatic price differences,” says Martin Makary, M.D., M.P.H., a cancer surgeon and professor of health policy at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and the paper’s senior author. Makary has published extensive research focused on health care costs and vulnerable populations.

For the study, Makary and his team obtained all Medicare billing records for 3,428 hospitals from all

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