07 Feb Becerra – What Will It Take for You to Protect America’s Health Care First Responders?
By 340B Matters
Dear Secretary Becerra,
As America’s safety-net healthcare providers struggle with the Omicron crush, thirteen huge drug companies have illegally cut or announced plans to end access to the vital 340B Drug Discount Program. That means hospitals and clinics have billions of dollars less to care for the sick during the ongoing and unprecedented pandemic.
Congress created the program three decades ago to help public and non-profit hospitals that treat large numbers of low-income patients stretch scarce resources. The deal was simple: In return for providing discounted medicines to these safety-net providers, drug companies could sell into the government’s massively lucrative Medicaid and Medicare markets.
But Big Pharma has walked away from the deal. Since 2020, a growing list of mega drug makers have refused to supply discounted meds to hospitals and clinics that contract with local pharmacies for dispensing. You know this is wrong and have publicly said so: “You violate the law, you pay the consequences.”
But beyond that, Secretary Becerra, you have not acted to punish the manufacturers.
You have at your disposal civil monetary penalties. Under the statute, drug companies failing to comply with 340B can face a fine of $5,000 for each instance of overcharging. With the stroke of a pen, you could inflict billions of dollars of pain on a group of manufacturers that consider themselves above the law.
First responders across the nation need all the resources possible to treat patients who are sick and dying from Omicron. 340B savings are essential to meeting this crisis. Safety-net hospitals and clinics are seeing discount losses of up to 40 percent due to manufacturers turning their backs on the law.
You and your predecessor have received bi-partisan congressional letters demanding action. The most recent, led by Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), puts your foot-dragging succinctly: “Despite the manufacturers’ defiant refusal to comply or even plan to comply, only in September did HHS refer the companies to the Office of Inspector General for possible enforcement action. Unfortunately, this ongoing inaction has emboldened at least six more drug companies to join the original six companies in flouting the law.”
Secretary Becerra, you don’t need an IG report to detail the obvious.
The time is NOW for civil monetary penalties. Not next month, not tomorrow. NOW. Otherwise, you too will be complicit in the draining of resources away from health care providers serving communities of color and rural communities across the country.
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