Hospital CEOs petition Congress over prescription drug-pricing program

The CEOs of more than 700 hospitals and health systems penned a letter to U.S. lawmakers, urging them to protect the 340B drug pricing program amid efforts to reduce prescription drug costs.  

The letter, dated Oct. 2, came from CEOs representing hospitals and health systems from all 50 states and Washington, D.C., that participate in 340B.

"Americans are right to be upset with the high prices being charged for new and existing drugs and cutting back the 340B program would make these problems much worse," they wrote. "We are concerned about recent regulatory actions that have reduced the reach of this vital program and by legislative proposals that would undo more than two decades of bipartisan work to preserve the healthcare safety net."

The 340B drug pricing program, enacted in 1992, enables hospitals and other organizations that treat a large number of low-income and uninsured patients to buy certain outpatient prescription drugs from manufacturers at a discount.

According to the CEOs, 340B hospitals provide about 60 percent of the nation's uncompensated and unreimbursed care yet include only 38 percent of U.S. acute care hospitals.

They said 340B savings allow them to offer obstetrics, trauma care and opioid addiction treatment. They have argued that Medicare payment cuts for drugs purchased through the 340B program "would not reduce the cost of prescription drugs in the U.S. and would weaken nonprofit hospitals' ability to serve patients."

The letter from CEOs comes about a month after the American Hospital Association, along with several other national healthcare organizations and hospitals, refiled their lawsuit against HHS seeking to reverse $1.6 billion in 340B cuts that took effect in January.

An HHS spokesman told The Wall Street Journal earlier this year the cuts are designed to reduce medication costs for Medicare beneficiaries and are part of President Donald Trump's "strong commitment to addressing the high cost of prescription drugs."

CMS has proposed additional 340B cuts for 2019 related to nonexcepted off-site provider-based departments.


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