Patients Receiving Iron Infusions Need All the Strength They Can Get When They See the Bills

Critics say providers have an incentive to administer the most costly treatments.

More patients with anemia are choosing to get the iron their blood needs via infusion, rather than pills these days. For one thing, as Kaiser Health News (KHN) reports, infusions carry less risk of side effects than pills do, and the advances in getting iron intravenously have made the process much safer.

The much less expensive non-infusion treatments should be tried first, according to guidelines, but that doesn’t always happen, reports KHN. In Medicare, doctors and hospitals are paid partly on the basis of the average sales price; an incentive, say critics, to prescribe the more expensive treatments.  

“For those with private insurance, hospitals and doctors can mark up prices even more. Intravenous infusions, generally administered in a hospital or clinic, also generate a ‘facility fee’,” KHN reports.

The problem will most likely get worse before it gets better. For instance, the newest infusions, Injectafer and Feraheme, are also two of the priciest on the American market.

According to the Health Care Cost Institute (and as reported by KHN), 23% of privately billed iron infusion visits involved Injectafer or Feraheme in 2017, compared to 13% in 2015.