340B Advocacy – Preserving Underserved Health Care in America

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In Democracy in America, French sociologist and political theorist Alexis de Tocqueville spoke of the importance of advocacy to American civil society: “In the United States, as soon as several inhabitants have taken an opinion or an idea they wish to promote in society, they seek each other out and unite together once they have made contact. From that moment, they are no longer isolated but have become a power seen from afar whose activities serve as an example and whose words are heeded.”

As the 340B drug pricing program faces unprecedented attacks at multiple levels, effective advocacy as envisioned by de Tocqueville is critical to preserve and protect this essential program. All stakeholders who depend on the savings of 340B to improve access to healthcare need to speak with a loud and unified voice, and 340B covered entities have an obligation to advocate at the national and state level to ensure the program continues to meet its goal: to improve access to quality health care for Americans in underserved areas. 

From May 16th to 18th, Hudson Headwaters 340B held its 4th Annual Client Forum in Glens Falls, NY, bringing together national 340B subject matter experts to share their viewpoints on the status of the program. The audience included representatives from many of our client organizations who historically may not attend the larger 340B conferences across the country.

Over two days, 17 speakers presented their insights, experience, and ideas to help covered entities get involved with advocacy in protecting the 340B program. Although every healthcare executive knows how important 340B is to the stability of their organization and its ability to deliver access to health care in underserved communities, many are hesitant or unsure how to effectively advocate for the program. At our event, many participants were eager to get involved in advocacy efforts but were unsure of the best path forward to garner support for 340B among local, state, and federal leaders.

Though many voices can make a difference, direct involvement of the senior leadership in advocacy efforts is key. At Hudson Headwaters Health Network, a federally qualified health center that provides primary care and select specialty services to over 115,000 patients across a vast and geographically isolated region of New York, advocacy is a core component of the strategic plan.

The Vice President for Government Relations works closely with the CEO, clinical leadership, senior administrators, and performance leaders to identify advocacy goals and develop plans for outreach and education of politicians, community representatives, allied businesses, and grass-roots organizations. Active engagement of executives in this process is key, including participation of the CEO, CMO, Board members, and other senior leaders in meetings with government officials, at public hearings on pending legislation, and in drafting outreach materials and signing onto memoranda of support. A message that clearly illustrates the connection between 340B-related resources and vital care and services it supports is a powerful one, and coming from the CEO or CMO helps solidify its impact. 

Coordinating advocacy and outreach with other organizations is also important, as it helps amplify the message. For example, Hudson Headwaters works closely with a number of state and national organizations, including the Community Health Center Association of New York State (CHCANYS), the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC), the Primary Care Development Corporation (PCDC), and the Save New York’s Safety Net Coalition.

There have been successful advocacy efforts across the country, such as in Ohio and West Virginia, that are great examples from which to build your own advocacy efforts. Research their 340B advocacy stories and reach out to those involved. 340B colleagues who have worked through this process are more than happy to help others navigate the space. Advocating for 340B has never been more important than it is today, and we can’t wait for others to do this important work for us. Now is the time we need to get involved.

If you’re eager to become an advocate but don’t know where to start, Hudson Headwaters 340B hopes to be a trusted resource. Our purpose is to help healthcare professionals navigate the complexities of the 340B program – not only in administering it, but also in protecting it. We’re looking forward to using our experience with 340B to help healthcare executives get involved in advocating for the program. To stay up to date about future leadership forums or advocacy webinars, please visit our website or follow us on LinkedIn

Nicholas Rebmann is CEO of Hudson Headwaters 340B.  He can be reached at nrebmann@hudson340b.com.

Sean Philpot-Jones is VP, Government Relations and Grants Management for Hudson Headwaters Health Network. He can be reached at sphilpott@hhhn.org.