On 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.