Over the past two years, there has been a 20% increase in community oncology practices being acquired by another practice or corporate entity, a new report says.
The report released Friday by the Community Oncology Alliance, which represents such practices, said the jump is likely due to practices wanting to avoid acquisitions by hospitals and other financial incentives.
The report also found that since 2008, 435 community oncology practices have closed and 722 have been acquired or affiliated with a hospital.
The rate of practices getting acquired by hospitals increased by 9.7% from 2018 to 2020. COA said that hospitals give a financial incentive for oncology practices because of higher payments to hospital sites and under the 340B drug discount program.
The COA has been fighting for site-neutral payments that would cut payments to off-campus hospital clinics.
“The shifting of cancer care to large health systems is the result of the runaway 340B program and disparate site-of-service payments that basically mint money for hospitals,” COA Executive Director Ted Okon said in a statement.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has installed cuts to off-campus clinics and the 340B program, but both have been overturned in the courts.
The report added that early data shows the COVID-19 pandemic is leading to “steep decreases in visits, treatments and new patients,” COA said in a release.
“While government support and policy changes enacted to date have been helping practices weather the storm, it is unclear if hospitals will use unrestricted bailouts to fuel growth post-crisis, further acquiring community oncology practices and consolidating the nation’s cancer care into the much more expensive hospital setting,” COA added.
Oncology practice leaders said during a COA virtual conference Thursday they are quickly turning to telehealth to improve communication and still treat patients during the outbreak.