Olivia Little, Johnson County Hospital’s 340B Coordinator, traveled to Washington DC in March to attend the 340B Health Legislative Event. The legislative event had 103 attendees from 35 states who requested 234 meetings with members of Congress (68 Senate and 166 House). The purpose of these meetings was to discuss with Congress the impact the 340B Drug Pricing Program has on hospitals, patients and communities. 340B hospitals are on the frontlines of treating low income patients and patients from rural populations. As Congress is considering healthcare and Medicare reform, it is important to protect the 340B Drug Pricing Program and its hospitals.
The 340B program was enacted through the Social Security Act of 1992 for hospitals serving high numbers of low income individuals to receive lower drug pricing from manufacturers. In 2010, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) added a provision to include hospitals that serve rural populations to also receive lower drug pricing from manufacturers. Johnson County Hospital was able to become a 340B hospital through the ACA. The 340B program is not funded by the government, but instead is funded by drug manufacturers.
Because of Johnson County Hospital’s rural location, some patients have limited access to transportation, so traveling to a larger town for healthcare services may be challenging. To offset this challenge, JCH provides many specialty clinics that allow patients to receive quality healthcare close to home. The 340B prescription drug program helps support critical health services in our communities. From July 2014 through June 2015, the program led to a $133,872 savings for Johnson County Hospital. In turn, this savings was used to increase access to healthcare programs in our community, such as Johnson County Hospital Home Health Services, community outreach programs, breast cancer awareness programs, and educational and trauma workshops held in collaboration with local EMTs.
Since the 340B program is such a vital resource for the hospital, Little felt it was important to support the program in Washington DC. During her time there, she attended workshops and spent a full day meeting with members of Congress and their staff. Little met with the offices of Senator Ben Sasse, Senator Deb Fisher, Congressman Don Bacon and Congressman Jeff Fortenberry. She also met with Congressman Adrian Smith of the Third District, who is on the Health Subcommittee of the House of Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over bills and matters regarding healthcare.
According to Little, the meetings took place in a variety of settings, from offices, to a cafeteria, to a hallway. “It was quite the experience to see the workings of Capitol Hill,” said Little. “All the representatives and senators made time for themselves or staff members to meet with us to discuss the 340B Program.”
Little stressed that although the 340B program is part of the Affordable Care Act, it is not government funded. “It is actually funded by drug manufacturers to give healthcare facilities serving the underserved patient populations the best drug price. These savings are used by the hospital to benefit the community and to expand healthcare services. The loss of these savings would be detrimental to our hospital and other 340B hospitals in the United States.”
Pharmaceutical drug companies are arguing against the 340B program. However, out of the $457 billion industry, only $12 billion is part of the 340B program purchases. That is only 2.6% of the total prescription drugs purchased. Critical access hospitals like Johnson County Hospital make up only 3% of that $12 billion.
Little said that a survey of 340B hospitals show that hospitals use the program to expand patient access in a variety of ways, such as enhancing the ability to serve the uninsured or underinsured; increasing the amount and types of services offered; and maintaining the current level of care and keeping the doors open. Without the program, all respondents said there would be a negative effect on their communities.
Johnson County Hospital strives to provide high-quality care and educational and outreach programs to the community. The 340B Program is a large part of being able to provide those services. Contact your representatives and senators to encourage them to preserve the 340B Drug Pricing Program.