Hospitals are charging patients huge markups for relatively commonplace drugs while they are placed in observation care, reported Kaiser Health News and USA Today .
Hospitals have no obligation to tell patients when they are in observation care, often surprising them with bills that are not covered by Medicare, the article noted. And in many instances, they are marking up drug costs by multiples of their normal retail price.
For example, Diane Zachor, a Medicare enrollee admitted into observation care for chest pains, was on the hook for $442 worth of pharmaceutical charges. The charges were for commonplace drugs such as insulin, KHN reported. The charges for the insulin Sachor required during her 18-hour stay was enough to cover her out-of-pocket expenses for an three-month supply.
The markup was even higher for Pearl Beras, a Florida resident charged $71 for a single blood-pressure pill that costs 16 cents at her neighborhood pharmacy, noted KHN.
Healthcare economists say hospitals mark up the drugs for observation care to make up for losses in other parts of their operations, according to the article.
Meanwhile, hospitals also are coping with serious drug shortages for their inpatients, according to the Newark Star-Ledger.