07 Apr Recognizing the Work of Congressional Champions for America’s Health Care Safety Net
By 340B Matters
As lawmakers return to their districts and states for recess, we want to applaud a bipartisan group of congressional leaders that have been staunch champions for the 340B Drug Discount Program. These individuals have stood up for their local safety-net hospitals and clinics and fought Big Pharma’s illegal actions to shrink the program beyond recognition.
When President Biden recently signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2022, it included language to allow certain safety-net hospitals impacted by COVD a window to reapply for 340B status, regardless of their current patient mix. Without a doubt, the strong support from 340B’s congressional boosters made it happen and helped preserve access to health care for our country’s most vulnerable patients.
Last year, six senators were lead cosponsors on S.773, a related bill that would waive eligibility requirements for hospitals participating in the 340B drug discount program during the COVID-19 emergency. Specifically, the bill waives the required minimum proportion of low-income patients. The flood of Americans into hospitals has temporarily changed the financial demographics and pushed some hospitals out of the 340B program.
The six lawmakers are: John Thune (R-SD), Rob Portman (R-OH), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Ben Cardin (D-MD).
Reps. Abigail Spanberger, (D-VA) and David McKinley (R-WV) also deserve special credit for recognizing the importance of 340B to America’s healthcare safety net. In early 2021, the two led a bi-partisan letter with 226 cosigners demanding that the Secretary of Health and Human Service stop drug companies from illegally refusing 340B drug discounts. At that time, seven manufacturers were flouting federal law. That number has since grown to 16.
“We write today as leading congressional proponents of the 340B drug discount program to ask you to take immediate action to ensure that manufacturers are prohibited from imposing unilateral changes to the program in direct conflict with congressional intent and decades of written guidance,” said the letter. Among the top signatories were Reps. Dusty Johnson (R-SD), John Katko (R-NY), Cindy Axne (D-IA) and Doris Matsui (D-CA). Matsui also introduced her own 340B hospital eligibility bill, HR 3203.
Note well that the 340B program enjoys clear bi-partisan support. That’s been the case since Congress created it in 1992 and 340B was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush. Try as the drug industry might to smear the program with specious claims, it has never been able to shake congressional confidence in a medication discount system that helps nonprofit hospitals and community health clinics care for underserved patients in our rural communities and urban centers. What’s more, it doesn’t cost taxpayers a penny!
Spanberger and McKinley also introduced the PROTECT 340B Act. The bill prohibits health insurers and pharmacy benefit managers from discriminating against 340B providers or their contract pharmacies by imposing different rules and lesser reimbursement terms. “Actions taken by big pharmaceutical companies and middlemen have jeopardized the ability of clinics and hospitals to provide vital services,” said McKinley. “Our bipartisan bill will hold pharmaceutical companies accountable and ensure access to affordable medicine.”
In addition to the leaders mentioned, more than half of Congress has taken some steps to support 340B, particularly since the double hits of the pandemic and egregious drug company assaults started in 2020. Some members contacted the Department of Health and Human Services individually, and others participated in various outreach efforts.
The 340B Drug Discount program will need the continued commitment of these congressional champions as the pharmaceutical industry seeks to destroy it.
We thank them all and applaud and support their efforts.
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