In a memo written this week, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) responded to a recent Kaiser Health News report by asking whether 340B-eligible hospitals are ‘doing everything possible to help uninsured patients receive health care, including affordable prescription drugs.’
340B is an important safety net program designed to help uninsured indigent patients gain greater access to prescription medicines. While there remains a need for this safety net program, there are emerging concerns about the program in its current form. In his memo, Sen. Grassley raises questions about whether 340B drug discounts are being used effectively to directly treat uninsured indigent patients.
Congress created the 340B program in 1992 to help these patients gain better access to prescription medicines. Paradoxically, the 340B program has experienced dramatic growth at the same time as access to medicines has expanded through Medicare Part D and the Affordable Care Act.
Sen. Grassley pledges to continue looking into how hospitals are using the 340B program and how this utilization affects other programs in the health care system. Growing evidence suggests the growth in the 340B program has departed significantly from its original intent, leading to evidence of abuse of the program and unintended and potentially harmful consequences for patients.
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has recently taken significant steps to improve oversight of the program, and such efforts to ensure program integrity must continue and expand. Improved transparency and oversight of the 340B program can help ensure that it is aligned with its original intent and directly supports indigent patients with the greatest need for prescription drugs.
We support Sen. Grassley’s commitment to ensuring that the 340B program is fulfilling its role of increasing access to prescription medicines for uninsured indigent patients. As a member of the Alliance for Integrity and Reform of 340B, we believe it is critical to ensure transparency, accountability, and oversight of the program so that it is a sustainable program for those who need it the most.