A bipartisan group of six U.S. House members, led by Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA), have re-introduced a bill that would prevent hospitals from losing eligibility for 340B discounts as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Five of the six types of hospitals that can participate in the 340B program must serve a statutorily defined level of low-income patients to become eligible for the program on an ongoing basis. Some hospitals are concerned those levels could dip through no fault of their own during the pandemic, which has reduced many procedures not related to treating patients with COVID-19.
The Matsui bill , which is co-sponsored by Reps. Chris Stewart (R-Utah), Cindy Axne (D-Iowa), David McKinley (R-WV), Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) and Dusty Johnson (R-SD), is similar to bipartisan legislation unveiled in the Senate in March. The House lawmakers introduced a similar bill in the previous Congressional session last July.
“Last year, many of America’s hospitals on the front lines of the pandemic postponed non-emergency services to prevent the spread of the virus. For our safety net providers, that meant caring for the influx of COVID-19 patients while still functioning as the essential support system for the medically vulnerable and underserved,” said Matsui in a May 13 news release.
“The 340B program has long been critical to delivering life-saving drugs and care to low-income patients and is essential to providing a more equitable health care delivery system. This bill will ensure that these essential providers will be able to continue to serve our nation’s most vulnerable patients and continue as our nation’s health safety net as we move forward down the road to recovery,” she added.
Matsui’s bill was praised by 340B advocates. “We are grateful for Rep. Matsui’s leadership on this bipartisan show of support for safety net hospitals participating in 340B,” said 340B Health President and CEO Maureen Testoni. “As frontline providers in the COVID-19 pandemic, 340B DSH hospitals have had to adjust to changes in the health care delivery system that can change their patient mix and negatively affect their 340B status. This much-needed legislation will protect these hospitals and the patients they serve until our nation fully emerges from this historic public health emergency.”