As hospitals increasingly hire oncologists, chemo costs rise

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The cost of chemotherapy in outpatient oncology practices in which physicians are employed by hospitals or health systems are higher than non-hospital affiliated practices, according to a recent study, Kaiser Health News reported.

In the study, the Health Care Cost Institute analyzed private health insurance claims and national data on consolidation among hospitals and physicians between 2008 and 2013. The analysis found significant consolidation between outpatient oncology practices and health systems in the decade leading up to 2013 was linked to an increase in spending on drug-based cancer treatment.

For each percentage point increase in the proportion of medical providers who were affiliated with a hospital or health system, there was a 34 percent increase in annual average spending per person for outpatient drug treatment, according to the report.

Researchers cited facility fees, which hospitals routinely add to bills, as part of the reason for the increase.

The study suggests it may be more cost-effective for patients to get chemotherapy at a community-based practice than a hospital or hospital-affiliated clinic.

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