Sep 26, 2022 - News

NYT: Bon Secours used Richmond's East End to turn a profit

Illustration of a red cross being torn in half.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Bon Secours Mercy Health turned millions in profit from Richmond Community Hospital while slashing services and staff, a New York Times investigation found.

What's happening: The Cincinnati-based chain of nonprofit Catholic hospitals used Community in the city's East End to tap into a federal program intended to help low-income patients.

  • But instead of investing the resulting windfall — more than $100 million in profit some years — back into Community, Bon Secours funneled much of it into expanding into the region's wealthier neighborhoods, per the Times.

How it works: The program, called 340B, allows nonprofit hospitals that serve low-income patients to buy prescription drugs at steep discounts.

  • Hospitals can then charge insurance companies full price and pocket the difference to help cover the cost of providing care in low-income communities.

However, Bon Secours used the arrangement to open new clinics at its suburban hospitals that, on paper, are subsidiaries of Community.

  • In one example NYT found, Richmond Community could buy a vial of the cancer drug Keytruda for $3,444 but administer it at the Bon Secours Cancer Institute at St. Mary's — and charge Blue Cross Blue Shield $25,425.

What they're saying: "Bon Secours was basically laundering money through this poor hospital to its wealthy outposts," a former Richmond Community ER doctor, Lucas English, told NYT.

The other side: Bon Secours told the paper it has provided $18 million in free care to Richmond Community patients since 2018, including $3.8 million just in 2020.

Of note: Former mayor Dwight C. Jones told the paper there was a "major shift" in Bon Secours from being mission-driven to profit-driven following its 2018 merger with an Ohio hospital system.

Go deeper via the New York Times.

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