Cancer hospitals push for Medicare CAR-T payments
Lobbyists representing cancer hospitals are urging Medicare officials to create a new set of payments for new, expensive CAR-T treatments.
Looking ahead: Medicare is expected to release a big annual payment rule any day now, and there's a chance it could propose "add-on" payments for CAR-T therapies — a move that would cost the government millions of dollars while immediately broadening dying cancer patients' access to promising new treatments.
The details: Federal meeting records show four lobbyists working on behalf of cancer hospitals like Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and MD Anderson met with Medicare officials in February — including Demetrios Kouzoukas, a top Medicare director in the Trump administration — to talk about the proposed inpatient payment rule that is released every April.
Specifically, they discussed Medicare's payment policies for CAR-T, a therapy that attacks cancer by using a patient's own immune cells. Two CAR-T treatments have gotten FDA approval:
- Kymriah, made by Novartis, has a list price of $475,000.
- Yescarta, made by Gilead Sciences, has a list price of $373,000.
The rub: Medicare has approved outpatient rates for CAR-T at the standard price plus 6%, but the cost of inpatient CAR-T treatments is rolled into smaller bundled amounts that encompass the entire hospitalization.
Why it matters: Cancer doctors have only been comfortable providing CAR-T on an inpatient basis because the treatment is still new and patients need to be monitored closely for adverse reactions.
- Many hospitals "would like to start the program, but not without adequate reimbursement from Medicare," said one person familiar with the industry, adding that Medicare officials "know it's a problem."
Go deeper: Bloomberg profiled CAR-T insurance hurdles in December.