10 Oct The State Journal: Why West Virginia needs 340B Drug Pricing Program
“Like many states, West Virginia faces many challenges in providing necessary health care for its residents. Over a third of state residents live in rural areas, which means hospitals may be far away and doctors few and far between. West Virginia has 371 Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs), of which my own county, Monongalia, contributes six. One-hundred-fifteen of those designations are for primary-care services, which affect over half a million state residents.
West Virginians need every hospital and every penny possible to live better, healthier lives, especially when health-care costs, including prescription drug prices, have skyrocketed. Affording such care has become ever more challenging, considering that median household earnings for West Virginia are $14,000 below the national average. This is why a little-known drug pricing program called 340B is so important for the state.
For 25 years, the 340B Drug Pricing Program has been an essential tool for getting necessary medicines to vulnerable patients. The program mandated that drug manufacturers deeply discount their products for hospitals that treat a disproportionate share of low-income patients, in return for a guaranteed market (and big profits) in the Medicaid system. Hospitals use the savings from these discounts to supply under- and uninsured patients with their medications and to provide additional services for everything from diabetes clinics to oncology outreach. For example, West Virginia University Hospitals, located in Morgantown, probably saved 10 percent of its total prescription drug budget in its first year and a half in the program. These funds are vital in today’s health-care environment where over 40 percent of rural hospitals annually operate in the red and such savings allow them simply to keep their doors open.”