WASHINGTON — The Trump administration has pumped billions of dollars into the health care industry during the COVID-19 crisis, padding bottom lines at some of the country's most profitable businesses even as millions of Americans have been left struggling with mounting medical bills.
And although taxpayer money has poured into drugmakers, hospital systems and medical distributors, administration officials have put few requirements on the businesses that took public assistance.
Pharmaceutical companies could charge more for vaccines and treatments developed with public money.
Medical distributors that received government assistance to air-lift supplies from China this spring were able to sell the material at undiscounted prices.
And hospitals sustained with bailout money will be free to raise prices on patients for years to come.
"This was taxpayer money," said Elizabeth Mitchell, president of the Pacific Business Group on Health, a consortium of large companies, including Boeing, Safeway, Walmart and Wells Fargo, that have worked to control health care costs.
"Any effective investor says we want to see something for our investment," she said. "I'm very concerned that all we'll get out of this is an even more expensive health care system than we had going into the pandemic."
Overall, many large health care companies have been piling up profits during the pandemic.
The 25 biggest health care companies — including drugmakers, health insurers, medical supply companies and hospitals — recorded more than $63 billion in profits in the first two quarters of 2020, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis of company data aggregated by FactSet, a financial analysis company.
Profits just for drug companies and medical distributors that received taxpayer assistance during COVID top $24 billion through the first half of the year, The Times analysis found.