18 Jun 340B Hospitals Address Racial Disparities in Healthcare
The coronavirus pandemic has made clear the troubling racial disparities in American healthcare. People of color who are poor are dying more often from the disease.
One recent study finds that African American mortality rates are 10-times higher than whites in the 35 to 40 age range.
The problem is longstanding and driven by lower access to medical treatment by minorities in general. America’s safety-net hospitals and clinics participating in the 340B Drug Discount Program are often the first line of care for our nation’s communities of color.
One statistic says it all: The percentage of African American patients treated in 340B hospitals is 66 percent higher than at facilities not in the program, according to a study by the trade association 340B Health.
Publicly funded Harris Health System in Texas is a case in point. Seventy-nine percent of its patients are Hispanic or African American. More than half of all patients are uninsured and 34 percent are on Medicare or Medicaid. (Medicaid typically reimburses hospitals below the cost of care.)
Last year alone, Harris Health provided $650 million in charity care to its community. Its two flagship facilities in Houston, Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital and Ben Taub Hospital, provide robust services including 18 community health centers and 23 clinics. Savings from the federal 340B Drug Discount Program help fund these activities.
Signed into law by President George H.W. Bush, the 340B program requires pharmaceutical companies to provide discounted medicines to safety-net hospitals and clinics treating high numbers of underserved, underinsured and uninsured patients. The best part? It costs taxpayers nothing.
Nonprofit and public hospitals across America depend on 340B drug discounts to help subsidize patients who cannot afford to pay for care. At inner-city and rural hospitals alike, the program is essential to treating the underserved – whether in normal times or during a pandemic.
Even as racial disparities in healthcare gain new urgency during the pandemic, the drug industry wants to kill the 340B program on Capitol Hill. It’s yet another example of how Big Pharma’s unseemly obsession with profits is weakening America’s healthcare safety net.
We need it now more than ever.
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