27 Apr News Release: Congressional Black Caucus Defends 340B Hospitals
The Congressional Black Caucus is throwing its support behind 340B hospitals and health clinics, coming as Rep. Doris Matsui (D-HI) also seeks to boost the hospitals by drafting a bill that requires audit parity between 340B hospitals and drug makers.
At a congressional Black Caucus event Thursday (April 26) to support 340B hospitals, Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, said the 340B program has helped the communities he represents. He said he is “shocked” the program is under attack and vowed to use any tactics necessary to defend it.
“We will resist that with anything we have,” he said.
Matsui, who spoke at the event but is not part of the Congressional Black Caucus, also praised the program for making it possible for health clinics that serve specific conditions and underserved populations to open in both rural and urban areas. She cited the Sacramento Native American Health Center as an example. Matsui suggested brand drug makers were behind 340B reform legislation and regulations aimed at 340B hospitals. CMS recently cut reimbursement by 28 percent for Part B drugs that hospitals buy through the 340B program. The policy is budget neutral but the president’s budget proposes to tie 340B drug discounts to charity care,  and part of the savings from that policy would go back to the government.
“We’re in a fight right now and that’s why it’s important that we’re all here together,” she said.
Those trying to reform the 340B program say it isn’t opaque. However, Matsui said the hospitals and clinics in 340B are subject to more audits than drug makers. Matsui is writing legislation that would bring parity between the two industries. Her office said more details would be available soon. Matsui also complained about the lack of transparency on drug prices.
Much of the Thursday event focused on Ryan White clinics that treat HIV-positive patients. 340B legislation and the rule cutting pay for 340B drugs exempt Ryan White clinics, but representatives of those clinics worry that the focus on charity care will indirectly hurt the clinics. They say the focus on charity care creates the impression that the program is only for uninsured patients who are eligible for charity care. However, those who don’t need charity care fuel the program, they said. Hospitals and clinics make money off insured patients, then they use that money to care for the uninsured, they contend.
If the 340B program is curtailed, either hospitals will have to cut services or taxpayers will have to make up for what drug makers had been paying for, 340B supporters say.