Why do 11 Cancer Centers Get to Charge More than Other Elite Hospitals and Cancer Centers?

Jun 20, 2019 | Academic Medical Center, Price Watch, Research Center

Panorama of caregiver supporting sleeping sick child with cancer in the hospice

Eleven cancer centers have been allowed by the U.S government to charge higher fees for their care than other centers.  A new study identifies that the care offered at these elite centers isn’t that much different than other well-known health centers.  Why are we paying more?

Apparently reports the study in JAMA Network, these eleven (11) centers since the 1980s operate with an exemption from the “Prospective Payment System,” meaning they are able to raise fees at higher rates than comparable medical institutions for Medicare and Medicaid patients.

The Study

The study revealed that “There does not seem to be a lot of difference between those centers and other high-end National Cancer Institute Cancer Centers” reported study co-author Dr. Karl Bilimoria, director of surgical outcomes and quality improvement center at Northwestern Medicine.  Dr. Bilimoria suggests that based on their study results perhaps the system should be reevaluated.

Dr. Robert Ferris director of the Hilman Cancer Center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center reported on the exemption program that it is “a sort of two-tiered class system,  not widely known by the general public.”

The team reported that the reason for the tiered approach was that these centers were supposed to do more work on cancer care and research, but that differentiation is pretty much gone—those that don’t have the pricing freedom do just as much research for example.

Who are the 11 Centers?

Dana Farber Cancer Institute (Boston); Brigham and Women’s Hospital (Boston); Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center (Buffalo, New York); Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (New York City); Fox Chase Cancer Center (Philadelphia); University of Miami Hospital and Clinics-Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center (Miami, Florida; University of Miami Hospital; H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute (Tampa, Florida); The Ohio State University James Cancer Hospital (Columbus); University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (Houston); Seattle Cancer Care Alliance; University of Washington Medical Center (Seattle); USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Hospital (Los Angeles); Keck Hospital of USC (Los Angeles); and City of Hope’s Helford Clinical Research Hospital (Duarte, California).

Lead Research/Investigator

Dr. Karl Bilimoria, Director of surgical outcomes and quality improvement center at Northwestern Medicine