06 Nov The Hill: We can help rural seniors and veterans by keeping the 340B drug pricing program
“Today there is much talk about the state of health care in America. Everything from repealing Obamacare to dealing with the opioid epidemic seems to be on everyone’s radars. But one thing that’s not being talked about is the proposed change to a vital drug pricing program that serves vulnerable populations.
This July the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) announced possible changes to the 340B Drug Pricing Program, specifically in the way that drug discounts are calculated. Such changes would jeopardize health care across the country, especially to the people who need it most.
This proposal was shocking, considering that the program has worked wonders for the past twenty-five years. Established in 1992, the 340B Drug Pricing Program allows drug manufacturers to gain guaranteed access to the Medicaid market in return for providing outpatient drugs at a deep discount to eligible entities that treat disproportionate shares of low-income, under- or uninsured populations. At no cost to the taxpayer, the program allows hospitals to “stretch scarce Federal resources as far as possible.” The program is a success — over 12,000 entities and 700 manufacturers participate in the program today.
So why does the 340B program matter? Because eligible health care organizations have saved millions of dollars in drug discounts.These savings are then used for local priorities like providing low or no-cost medications, arranging transportation services in remote locations, or offering free clinics to help manage diabetes or obesity.
These savings are critical to helping people receive the care they need, but may not be able to afford. This was recently made clear at a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. The Mission Health system in North Carolina, which serves over one million patients in southern Appalachia, saved over $37 million in 2016 through the 340B program — those savings amounted to 70 percent of their operating margin and supported an urgent-care walk-in clinic, a health center for the homeless, a child advocacy center, and a family justice center among other programs.”