Hospitals ask Congress to protect 340B pricing program

May 22, 2015

More than 500 CEOs of hospitals and health systems urged Congress to protect the 340B drug pricing program, which helps fund free and low-cost medication access and clinics for the underserved.

More than 500 CEOs of hospitals and health systems urged Congress to protect the 340B drug pricing program, which helps fund free and low-cost medication access and clinics for the underserved. And they were successful.

The House Energy & Commerce Committee, which had been weighing whether to add language about 340B to the 21st Century Cures bill, decided not to and the nonpartisan 21st Century Cures Act was unanimously approved on May 21 without a mention of the 340B program.

HRSA, the branch of HHS that oversees 340B, has already written 340B program guidance, noted Ted Slafsky, president and CEO of 340B Health, on a conference call sponsored by the association of more than 1,000 hospitals on May 20.

“While we appreciate the committee's interest in the 340B program, we think Congress should review and consider what HRSA proposes to do before considering any changes to this important program,” he said.

A letter of protest

More than 500 CEOs signed a letter protesting the 340B changes, delivered to the leadership of the U.S. House and Senate earlier last week.

“In 2013, because we received vital medications from drug manufacturers at a discounted price, The Johns Hopkins Hospital was able to save $46 million, while Bayview saved about $7 million through these efforts,” said Ronald Peterson, president of Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System, Baltimore, Md., on the call. “These savings enable The Johns Hopkins Hospital and other safety net hospitals to give back to their communities in a variety of ways, such as medication assistance programs and free medical care in certain low-income zip codes.”

Many other hospitals – both large and small, rural healthcare facilities – face the same predicament.

 

“The 340B program allows us to purchase medications at discounted pricing for eligible outpatients. For Erlanger, this means a savings of $15 million annually,” said Donna Bourdon, president of ContinuCare HealthServices, Erlanger Health System in Chattanooga, Tenn., on the conference call.

Without the savings provided through the 340B program, some trauma, oncology, and stroke services programs at Erlanger would not be able to be provided to underserved patients.

One Erlanger program which is fully funded by these 340B savings is its pharmacy at the Dodson Avenue Community Health Center, according to Bourdon. The pharmacy offers significantly reduced pricing to patients who need it and provides face-to-face counseling on medication therapy, adherence and disease management services.

“The FQHC [federally qualified health center] would be unable to sustain the cost of one pharmacist, much less the infrastructure necessary to deliver these services, unless funding was provided through savings,” Bourdon said.