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Expand chart
Data: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services; Chart: Kerrie Vila/Axios

Several pharmaceutical companies have recently said they'll delay some of their price increases, under pressure from the Trump administration. But hospitals have made no such concessions, even though they make up a much larger share of total health care spending.

The bottom line: Axios reached out to 27 hospital systems, many of which have some of the highest charges in the country. All of them were silent about whether they would lower or hold off on price increases.

Driving the news: Pfizer, Novartis, Merck and other drug makers have said they will delay, freeze or roll back price increases on some of their medicines.

  • Experts largely dismissed those pledges as political bandages with little real effect on patients' pocketbooks. But President Trump's ability to publicly pressure drugmakers into even those steps is still noteworthy.

The big picture: Drug pricing is the political controversy of the moment, but hospitals cost the health care system far more.

  • Retail drug spending represents 10% of U.S. health care spending, while hospital and doctor services consume about half of spending.
  • Health care prices have grown somewhat slowly over the past few years. But slow growth of high prices still leaves high prices.
  • Hospitals' sticker prices, like the list prices of drugs, are not indicative of what most people pay, but they are still important when it comes to negotiating with commercial health insurers.
  • A major difference worth highlighting is that Medicare sets its own fixed payment rates for hospital services, but does not have that power over prescription drugs.

What we're hearing: Almost nothing from the hospital industry.

Axios reached out to 27 hospital systems that have some of the highest charges in the country, according to federal data. None said they would follow drug companies' symbolic gestures and delay, freeze or lower their prices.

  • Ed Fishbough, a spokesperson at for-profit chain HCA Healthcare, said hospital pricing has been under pressure. Over the past five years, the company's prices have "increased an average of approximately 2.5% annually."
  • Sutter Health has limited its price hikes to "less than 3% annually since 2012," said Karen Garner, a spokesperson for the California system, who then argued "some insurance companies increased their rates to consumers by as much as 20% in a single year."
  • Terry Lynam, a spokesperson for Northwell Health in New York, said Northwell and most other systems have "extremely narrow margins ... unlike pharmaceutical companies," and that Northwell is "always looking for ways of reducing the cost of care."
  • 24 hospital systems either declined to comment or did not respond after multiple requests: Ascension, Bon Secours Health System, Catholic Health Initiatives, Cedars-Sinai, Cleveland Clinic, Community Health Systems, Dignity Health, Florida Hospital, Hospital for Special Surgery, Keck Medicine of USC, LifePoint Health, MedStar Health, Mercy Health, NewYork-Presbyterian, Northwestern Memorial HealthCare, NYU Langone Health, Partners HealthCare, Stanford Health Care, Tampa General Hospital, Temple University Health System, Tenet Healthcare, UPMC, Westchester Medical Center Health Network and Yale New Haven Health.

Go deeper

45 million Americans under winter storm watches near New England

Computer model projection showing the winds moving around the powerful East Coast storm on Saturday Jan. 29, 2022. Image: https://earth.nullschool.net

Nearly 45 million Americans are under winter weather alerts and warnings from North Carolina to northeastern Maine, as a major winter storm threatens the region.

Why it matters: It is predicted to be the biggest blizzard since 2018 to strike the Northeast with more than 2 feet of snow possible in parts of eastern Massachusetts, according to the National Weather Service.

2 hours ago - World

Australian PM pledges $700M for climate change-threatened Great Barrier reef

A green sea turtle is flourishing among the corals at Lady Elliot island in Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Photo: Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Getty Images

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Friday a AU$1 billion ($703 million) investment plan for the Great Barrier Reef.

Why it matters: The nine-year plan for projects including water quality improvement, reef conservation and supporting some 64,000 tourism jobs comes months ahead of this year's federal election. It has been criticized by scientists and environmental groups for failing to tackle climate change.

Judge nixes Gulf of Mexico oil leases in climate-focused ruling

Tug boats prepare to tow the semi-submersible drilling platform Noble Danny Adkins through the Port Aransas Channel into the Gulf of Mexico on December 12, 2020 in Port Aransas, Texas. Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

A federal judge on Thursday canceled the Biden administration's late 2021 sale of new oil-and-gas drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

Why it matters: The ruling that the greenhouse gas emissions analysis by the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) was insufficient is a win for green groups that challenged the decision, as they seek to curb fossil fuel production.

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