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BREAKING: New U.S. Senate Bipartisan Bill Would Preserve Hospitals’ 340B Eligibility During Pandemic

New U.S. Senate Bipartisan Bill Would Preserve Hospitals’ 340B Eligibility During Pandemic

New bipartisan legislation in the U.S. Senate would “would provide certainty to hospitals participating in the 340B drug discount program during the COVID-19 public health emergency,” its six sponsors say.

Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) introduced S. 4160 late yesterday afternoon. The text had not yet been released to the public as of late this morning. A joint statement by the lawmakers explains:

The COVID-19 public health emergency resulted in many hospitals experiencing a reduction in inpatient hospital admissions of low-income Medicare and Medicaid patients, a critical metric in determining eligibility for the 340B program. Though hospitals have started resuming elective procedures, and patients have begun returning to seek care, there is concern that as a result of this year’s slowdown, some hospitals may not meet the required inpatient admission threshold to remain in the program for the following year. This legislation would ensure that any previously eligible hospital will be deemed eligible for any cost reporting period during which the public health emergency occurred.

In May, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) introduced legislation (S. 3631) to pause all 340B covered entity eligibility determinations “to ensure that no entity loses eligibility status as a covered entity for any reason related to the COVID–19 public health emergency.” Sasse’s office explained to 340B Report in June that the bill “adds a protection as patient mixes are likely to have shifted quite a bit over the last few months for factors beyond a hospital’s control.”

Also in May, a bipartisan group of more than 100 U.S. House members led by Reps. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) and Chris Stewart (R-Utah) asked House and Senate party leaders, in any future COVID-19 relief bill, to temporarily protect hospitals from losing 340B eligibility due to a COVID-19 related reduction in their DSH adjustment percentage. They also asked their party leaders to let 340B hospitals buy covered outpatient drugs through group purchasing organizations during the pandemic.

House Democrats left those 340B provision out of the HEROES Act COVID-19 relief bill they passed on May 15. News organization Politico reports that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on June 30 that that the Senate will focus on its next coronavirus package when it returns from the two-week July 4 recess, with the goal of finishing before both chambers depart for their lengthy August break.

Solo legislation to aid 340B providers during the pandemic stands little chance of being enacted. However, the bill has a decent chance of making it through the Senate as part of its next COVID-19 relief package. This is due to S. 4160’s breadth of bipartisan support, its narrow scope, and the fact that Thune is majority whip, the Senate’s second ranking leader. If the bill passes the Senate, it is likely the House would have no objection and it could make it to the president’s desk. Nonetheless, this will likely depend on whether the drug industry puts up a fight over the bill and how hard it wants to fight.

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