05 Sep Rural Hospitals have a life line for survival, it is a little-known drug discount program called 340B
“When I think of eastern Oklahoma, I think of some of the most beautiful lakes in the country and the busy summertime towns. During my time as a medical professional and chief medical officer of the Northeastern Oklahoma Community Health Centers (NeoHealth), I’ve come to love the off seasons as well. The hardworking, kind people are what make Oklahoma home to me.
This isn’t to say that it is all perfect, though. One of the most pressing problems in Oklahoma’s rural areas is closure of rural hospitals. Just last year in Eufaula, the Epic Medical Center shut down, making it the third rural hospital to close in Oklahoma that year. Forty-one rural hospitals in Oklahoma are in financial distress.
When these hospitals close, not only do many people lose access to care and have to travel far to the next-nearest hospital, but economically a town suffers. Hospitals are some of the largest employers in the area. Rural towns need hospitals to provide jobs along with patient care.
There are a number of factors causing tough times for rural health centers, hospitals and medical providers, but the rising cost of prescription drugs is one of the most prevalent. Fortunately, there is one program that helps patients and medical providers — the 340B Prescription Drug Discount Program. This is a deal among health centers, hospitals and drug providers that allows drug providers access to the Medicaid market in exchange for giving rural providers a break on drug prices and offering them at a slightly reduced cost.
The 340B program, begun in the 1990s, has been incredibly valuable to reduce prices, bill on a sliding scale based on income, and routinely serve uninsured patients at NeoHealth. It has been critical in helping patients get access to the medications they need and it saves money for taxpayers, who fund the Medicaid program. Without the 340B program, many rural hospitals may not be able to stay open and patients may not be able to get the prescriptions they need.”