20 Apr CT Viewpoints: Congress must protect vital discount prescription drug program
“For more than 376,000 Connecticut residents each year, their medical needs are provided by a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), a community health center which gives patients top-level primary, dental and behavioral health care at a fraction of the cost of an emergency room visit. This includes First Choice Health Centers in East Hartford, Manchester and Vernon, which serves more than 21,000 people annually, many of whom otherwise cannot afford regular access to medical care.
This is the consistent, preventive care that keeps people healthy and productive. We and our health center colleagues throughout the state serve as family doctors and dentists (in addition to many other specialties) for everyone who comes through our doors, regardless of ability to pay. They become our patients for many years, and together we develop strong relationships rooted in trust and specific understanding of their needs.
Fortunately, we have benefited for years from federal funding to aid our mission, as well as federal legislation that makes resources such as prescription medications available to our centers and patients at deep discounts, without any cost to the federal or state government. The program was created in 1992 and is known as the 340B Drug Discount Program; it requires drug manufacturers to provide outpatient prescription medication to eligible health care organizations and covered entities at significantly reduced prices.
This program benefits our patients by taking some of the sting out of what can be costly prescription medications, and allows entities such as ours to stretch our limited resources as far as we can to reach more eligible patients and get them the right prescriptions they need to remain healthy.
Distressingly, Congress is putting basic access to these critically important medications in serious jeopardy by threatening to eliminate or significantly curtail the 340B program. At a time when the need for reliable, comprehensive community health services is greater than ever and more and more patients look to us for help (68 percent growth in patients in the past five years), this could have a devastating impact on those who can afford it the least.”