Keep a Watchful Eye on 340B Drug Discount Program

Categories: Policy
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340B graphicOn July 13, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a proposed rule that would drastically cut the 340B drug discount program for hospitals serving Medicare patients.

While the proposed CMS rule would not affect community health centers or other 340B-covered entities and Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grantees, the Primary Care Development Corporation urges the FQHC community and primary care advocates to keep a watchful eye and support the 340B program.

340B discounts allow hospitals and other health care providers to obtain life-saving medicine at a reduced cost and, according to HRSA, enable safety net providers “to stretch scarce Federal resources as far as possible, reaching more eligible patients and providing more comprehensive services.”

Chronic underinvestment – and the undervaluing – of primary care and other critical health services have forced primary care providers to depend on every dollar and means of cost savings to continue their essential programs.

Since Congress created the 340B Drug Pricing Program in 1992, safety net providers such as Ryan White HIV/AIDS-funded organizations have counted on 340B to reduce drug costs and help offset the high unreimbursed costs of delivering comprehensive care services to the medically underserved.

Nowhere is this more evident than at safety net hospitals and community health centers, which provide primary care services – and in many rural areas, the only such services – for the most vulnerable populations. The proposed CMS rule would specifically affect safety net hospitals and significantly cut their drug-cost savings from the 340B program, jeopardizing their ability to continue to provide care to all patients of all incomes.

Without access to primary care, families risk costly and serious complications from illnesses that can threaten their long-term financial security and well-being, as well as worsen other social and economic inequities.

The deadline to comment on the current CMS proposed rule is September 11, 2017 at 5 p.m. EST. Now is the right time for community health centers and other primary care providers who benefit from 340B to remind their Members of Congress why sufficient funding for primary care services is so necessary, and how the 340B drug discount program makes it possible to provide more care and services to more patients.

Louise Cohen, MPH, Chief Executive Officer

Phone: 212-437-3917Email: Louise Cohen is the Chief Executive Officer of the Primary Care Development Corporation (PCDC), a not-for-profit community development financial institution dedicated to expanding and strengthening the primary care safety net in the United States. PCDC provides capital and technical assistance to a wide variety of primary care providers, and advocates for improved and increased primary care access, capacity, quality, reimbursement, and capital resources in order to improve health outcomes, create healthier communities, increase health equity, and reduce overall health care system costs. Prior to assuming leadership of PCDC, she was Vice President for Public Health Programs at Public Health Solutions in New York City (2011-2015), where she oversaw a variety of programs to improve community health through food access and nutrition, women’s reproductive health, tobacco control, and child development. Ms. Cohen held successive leadership positions at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) from 1998-2011, including as Deputy Commissioner of the Division of Health Care Access and Improvement. Among her accomplishments at DOHMH, Ms. Cohen led the development and execution of Take Care New York, New York City’s first comprehensive health policy agenda. She also oversaw the Primary Care Information Project, which brought a public health and prevention-oriented ambulatory care electronic health record system to more than 2,500 primary care providers. Before her tenure at DOHMH, Ms. Cohen was Director of the Park Slope Family Health Center (now part of the NYU Lutheran Family Health Centers network). She served on PCDC’s Board of Directors from 2011 until she became CEO.