Freeze on drug price increases won’t effect patients

  • Several pharmaceutical companies have recently said they’ll delay some of their price increases, under pressure from the Trump administration. But hospitals have made no such concessions, even though they make up a much larger share of total health care spending.
  • Pfizer, Novartis, Merck and other drug makers have said they will delay, freeze or roll back price increases on some of their medicines. Experts largely dismissed those pledges as political bandages with little real effect on patients’ pocketbooks.
  • Drug pricing is the political controversy of the moment, but hospitals cost the health care system far more.  Retail drug spending represents 10% of U.S. health care spending, while hospital and doctor services consume about half of spending.

In the past six months, Vox has collected more than 1,000 emergency room bills submitted by readers in all 50 states and Washington, DC, as part of an investigation into emergency room billing practices.  The dominant storyline to emerge is what anyone who has visited an emergency room might expect: Treatment is expensive. And when health insurance plans don’t pay, patients are left with burdensome bills.

 

More than one-fifth of emergency room patients who attended an in-network hospital were cared for by out-of-network physicians, who are allowed to charge higher payments than in-network doctors, according to a working paper by Yale researchers recently distributed by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The average bill for people who were seen by out-of-network doctors was $622.55, which could be enough to push some Americans into the red.

The sad reality is that the freeze on prescription drug prices will do little to help patients .  They are essentially at the mercy of insurers, but pharma is not off the hook.

The above was posted all over social media this week and I can’t help but  wonder why someone, anyone, at a drug company wouldn’t reach out to her to try and help?  We know that the price of insulin has been climbing in double digits and some drug companies do offer assistance, but how could you not take an empathetic view to help her?

The media are doing us all a disservice by focusing strictly on drug prices.  It’s time to really explain why our drug costs are so high.

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