Employer-sponsored plans can pay 30 times Medicare rates for specialty drugs

Employer-sponsored plans pay much higher rates for physician-administered drugs than Medicare, a research letter published Feb. 10 in JAMA Health Forum found. 

Researchers at the Healthcare Cost Institute compared per-unit prices for the 10 most expensive and 10 most common physician-administered drugs from 2016 to 2020. 

For the most commonly used drugs, employer-sponsored plans paid prices up to 3,350 percent higher than Medicare. For midazolam, employer-sponsored plans paid 30 times more than Medicare for the same drug, and they paid 20 times more for ondansetron. 

For the most expensive drugs, employer-sponsored plans did not pay as extreme markups, the researchers found. Markups were  54 percent more than Medicare at the high end, and employer-sponsored plans paid similar prices to Medicare rates for some drugs. 

Read the full study here. 

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