30 May Opinion: In a time of rising drug prices, preserve the 340B program
“In a recent blog post, Congressman Bradley Byrne highlighted that Alabama hospitals receive the lowest Medicare reimbursement rate in the country. Because Medicare is the largest payor in most hospitals, this issue impacts the fiscal sustainability of hospitals across the state. We gratefully acknowledge and applaud Congressman Byrne’s leadership in calling attention to the impact it has on Alabama’s hospitals.
Given the inequity in Medicare reimbursement, Alabama hospitals cannot afford to cling to our current operating model. We must disrupt ourselves. Our industry is undergoing a dramatic transformation as we shift from inpatient-centered, fee-for-service reimbursement to a more outpatient, fee-for-value payment system. Success in the new model hinges on delivering care that is accessible, affordable and that has the best possible outcomes. At our facilities, we have embraced this transformation because it’s the right thing to do for the communities we serve. Unfortunately, one of the biggest daily obstacles that we see to providing better care at a lower cost is the astronomical price increases of prescription drugs on not only newer drugs, but drugs that have been on the market for years.
Sadly, prescription drug spending continues to spiral out of control. According to the most recent data, more than $450 billion annually was spent on prescription drugs in the United States. Prescription medication prices are increasing far faster than any other aspect of healthcare.
Unfortunately, while this negative trend is occurring, a bipartisan program Congress created more than two decades ago to help safety net hospitals and community clinics stretch scarce resources to provide care for the poor and vulnerable and serve their communities is at risk. The 340B Drug Pricing Program requires drug manufacturers to provide outpatient drugs to eligible healthcare organizations at reduced prices so that hospitals can serve vulnerable populations with the best care possible. There are no federal tax dollars associated with the program. While the total discounts provided by the 340B program now amount to about two percent of the cost of all medicines purchased in the U.S., this program makes an enormous impact when it comes to helping rural and safety net hospitals, children’s hospitals and clinics keep their doors open and serve the community, particularly the underserved population.”