N.C. Treasurer and Hospitals Debate Over Medical Costs 

As reported in Spectrum Local News, North Carolina’s state treasurer has sparked controversy with a new report accusing hospitals of overcharging patients for cancer drugs. However, hospitals argue that the real issue lies with the pharmaceutical companies responsible for the rising costs of these medications. For the full article, please visit Spectrum Local News

Key Points: 

  • The state treasurer has called for greater pricing transparency from hospitals using the 340B program, claiming that patients and their insurance providers are being overcharged for oncology and infusion drugs. 
  • Hospitals defend the 340B program, emphasizing its importance in serving low-income and uninsured patients and pointing to pharmaceutical companies as the source of high drug prices. 
  • The North Carolina Healthcare Association insists that the focus should be on the rising costs imposed by drug manufacturers, which burden insured patients. 
  • North Carolina families continue to struggle with overwhelming medical debt, sometimes resorting to placing a deed of trust on their homes to manage costs. 

The Treasurer’s Findings 
State Treasurer Dale Folwell enlisted researchers to examine the State Health Plan for Teachers and State Employees’ medical claims from 2020 to 2022. The findings revealed that “340B hospitals billed state employees an average price markup of 5.4 times their discounted acquisition costs for oncology drugs.” This led to hospitals earning significant profits on these drugs, sometimes up to $13,617 per claim. 

The 340B Program 
The 340B program allows hospitals that serve vulnerable populations to purchase certain drugs at a discount. Hospitals argue that these savings are crucial for compensating the costs of providing care to impoverished and uninsured patients. Folwell’s report, however, calls for policymakers to demand more transparency regarding the revenue and profits generated by 340B hospitals. 

Hospital Responses 
The North Carolina Healthcare Association released a statement countering Folwell’s report, asserting that the 340B program is essential for maintaining the healthcare safety net. They argue that the program’s purpose is not to reduce costs for insurance companies but to enable hospitals to serve low-income patients effectively. They also highlighted the need to address the high prices set by pharmaceutical companies, which significantly impact insured patients. 

Personal Stories 
Families across North Carolina are deeply affected by medical debt. Terry Belk and his wife, Sandra, both battled cancer, accumulating nearly $100,000 in medical bills despite having insurance. Atrium Health eventually sued the Belks for the outstanding balance, leading to a long-term financial burden for Terry. 

Hospital Statements on 340B Program 
Atrium Health, Novant, Wake Med, and UNC are among the hospitals named in Folwell’s report. They emphasize the importance of the 340B program in supporting their mission to provide care to underserved communities. Atrium Health, for instance, uses the savings from 340B to maintain and enhance access to care in low-income areas. 

The Debate Continues 
While the state treasurer and hospitals continue to debate over the causes of high medical costs, the burden falls on families struggling with medical debt. The need for transparent pricing and effective healthcare policies remains critical to addressing this issue. 

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For further details and the complete article, please visit Spectrum Local News