11 Oct The Inquirer: Continue federal drug-assistance program that aids Pennsylvania hospitals
“Pennsylvania has one of the most diversified populations of all the states, and it is important that all its citizens, wherever they live, have access to needed medical care.
We have large cities, metropolitan areas, farms, small towns, and scattered villages, and communities throughout the commonwealth are being tested by some sobering facts: Our population is decreasing, job growth is limited by a shrinking work force, and state government is having a hard time figuring out how to provide services within the existing tax structure. So we must support all the things that keep our state competitive and healthy.
One of the things that makes our state a strong economic force is our rural population. Pennsylvania, despite its reputation as an industrial “rust belt” state with large urban development, is among the states with the highest number of rural residents, right up there with Texas and North Carolina. One in every four Pennsylvanians lives in a rural area.
So state and national policymakers should want to see our rural residents thrive, and that includes ensuring that rural hospitals survive, especially when they serve low- and moderate-income families, many on Medicaid.
Unfortunately, such families could be harmed by a plan in Washington to end or limit the 340B Drug Pricing Program, part of the Public Health Service Act of 1992 that helps rural and inner-city safety-net hospitals obtain discounted drugs for patients. Under 340B, the savings from these drugs allows hospitals to provide medical care to underserved populations. With about 20 percent of the population of Pennsylvania’s rural areas over age 65 and getting older, it underlines the importance of this needed program.
Who would want to end these important discounts? Big pharmaceutical companies. I am not arguing that they should not make a profit based on all the good they do for our health, their research into new drugs, and their packaging and distribution activities. But I believe that trying to limit or stop 340B is going too far.”