COVID-19 Casts a Shadow Over 340B-Related Meetings, Including the Year’s Main Event
The 340B Coalition’s annual summer conference historically is the year’s biggest get-together for 340B stakeholders. It draws over 1,700 attendees. Registration for this year’s summer conference, to be held July 20-22 in Washington, D.C., opened yesterday—smack in the middle of the debate over when it will be safe for life to return to normal from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The coalition’s April 20 email to stakeholders about conference registration opening did not address its contingency plans if COVID-19 restrictions are still in place in July. The coalition outlines those plans on the conference website. “Your safety is our primary concern,” it says. “At this point, there are no prohibitions against travel and holding large events in July 2020, so the in-person conference continues to be planned. … If current restrictions are extended through July, the 340B Coalition Summer Conference will be held virtually, and your registration will be applied to the virtual event. We will be closely monitoring this situation and will provide updates as soon as they are available.”
Gatherings of 10 people or more in the District of Columbia currently are banned until May 15 and public health experts expect that large group gatherings likely will continue to be prohibited. The White House’s new nonbinding guidelines for “opening America up again” recommend resuming non-essential travel and socializing in groups of 50 or more only in states and regions where flu-like and COVID-19-like illness reports have trended downward for 28 consecutive days, where documented COVID-19 cases or positive tests as a percent of total tests have trended downward for 28 straight days, where hospitals can treat all patients without crisis care, and where a “robust testing program” is in place.
Conferences are a key source of revenue for trade associations. Many count on them to make budgetary goals. But health care providers and vendors are so financially hard pressed, many have resorted to pay cuts or layoffs. In this environment, conference registration fees could be a hard sell—not to mention hotel and travel expenses.
Apexus, the 340B program prime vendor, is “tentatively scheduled” to hold a 340B University educational program July 19 in conjunction with the 340B Coalition summer conference, according to information on the coalition summer conference website. “Apexus is closely monitoring developments related to COVID-19 and will make a decision on whether to hold the 340B University live event in July in the coming weeks,” Apexus says on the coalition site. “Please check back to our event website for more information.”
We asked the Health Resources and Services Administration this morning for the latest information about the July 340B University session. Here’s what it told us:
PVP/Apexus is monitoring the COVID-19 situation daily and as of today the 340B Prime Vendor is still accepting registrations for the upcoming sessions, including the 340B University session at the 340B Summer Coalition Conference. 340B University live session updates will be provided at https://www.340bpvp.com/education/340b-university/ and communicated directly to registrants. Meanwhile the 340B Prime Vendor offers OnDemand 340B education online accessible 24/7 at https://www.340bpvp.com/education/340b-u-ondemand/.
Apexus has already cancelled two 340B University sessions due to the pandemic: a March 15 session that was to have taken place before the cancelled National Association of Community Health Centers’ (NACHC) Policy & Issues Forum in Washington, D.C.; and a June 6 session that was to have occurred before the cancelled American Society of Health-System Pharmacists’ June 6-10 summer meetings in Seattle. “ASHP is currently working on a plan to deliver many of the important activities from the Summer Meetings virtually, including educational programming and the House of Delegates. We will share these details as soon as possible on our Summer Meetings website and via other communications channels,” ASHP said on its website.
The Healthcare Financial Management Association recently cancelled its annual meeting scheduled for June 28 through July 1 in San Antonio, Texas. “To avoid inconvenience for exhibitors and attendees who are actively planning for the June conference, and due to uncertainties in the next several months, HFMA believes it is in the best interest of our members, faculty and business partners to cancel this in-person event,” the group said on its website.
According to its training and events web page, NACHC has cancelled seven in-person events that were to have taken place from between April 15-16 and June 23-24. “NACHC is closely monitoring the widespread impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our nation’s health centers. We remain committed to serving health centers and are working to tailor our educational programs to meet the changing environment,” NACHC says on the page.
We reached out to NACHC about the status of its 2020 Community Health Institute & EXPO scheduled for Aug. 30–Sept. 1 in San Diego, Calif. The meeting web page says registration will open in June. “We are monitoring the situation and our leadership is evaluating the feasibility of holding CHI as the environment continually changes,” NACHC spokesperson Amy Simmons said. “As of today, the conference is still on, but please note that could change in the very near future. Our primary concern is for the health and well-being of our attendees, staff and vendors—as well as our commitment to the local communities our health centers serve.”
Meanwhile, the Children’s Hospital Association has put the brakes on its annual advocacy event scheduled for June 16-18 in Washington, D.C. “CHA has pivoted from an in-person D.C. event in June to a virtual week of advocacy activities in August,” spokesperson Gillian Ray said.
As of now, America’s Essential Hospitals’ annual meeting VITAL2020 is still set for June 17-19 in Chicago. The association, which represents 325 metropolitan hospitals serving high numbers of low-income and other vulnerable populations, is “assessing the impact” of COVID-19 on the event, according to a spokesperson who referred 340B Report to its website. “We will make the welfare of our conference participants a priority in all decisions. Please monitor this website for updates on the status of VITAL2020, ” the site states. The hotel where VITAL2020 will be held is currently closed due to the pandemic.
Hospital Aid Keeps Getting Smaller in Fourth COVID-19 Relief Bill
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a television interview this morning he thinks the Senate will pass a fourth COVID-19 relief bill later today. While it is expected to include tens of billions dollars in new emergency aid for hospitals, the sum probably won’t be nearly as large as hospitals hoped. If the Senate passes the bill, the House reportedly will vote on it Thursday.
In negotiations with congressional Republicans and the White House, congressional Democrats initially sought $100 billion more for hospitals given their lead role in responding to the pandemic. The CARES Act, enacted March 30, authorized $100 billion in emergency payments to providers shared among hospitals, physician group practices, solo practitioners, and others. Democrats have insisted more funding is needed now for hospitals. They have also demanded a robust national strategy for COVID-19 testing while Republicans have focused on a local approach. Over the weekend, it appeared negotiators were closing in on a deal that would give hospitals $75 billion and testing $25 billion. In his interview with CNN this morning, Schumer indicated that under a deal struck after midnight today, hospitals will get $60 billion and testing $30 billion.
The first $30 billion of the $100 billion for health care providers under the CARES Act is being allocated based on providers’ Medicare fee-for-service reimbursements in 2019. Hospitals and others want the rest to be weighted toward providers in COVID-19 hot spots and those with large Medicaid and Medicare Advantage caseloads. CMS indicated it agreed. Early last week, it said it expected to distribute the second tranche of money by the end of the week. That didn’t happen. It is still unclear when the money will flow.
On April 3, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said part of the $100 billion under the CARES Act would be used “to cover providers’ costs of delivering COVID-19 care for the uninsured.” HHS has yet to announce how and when that money will be disbursed.
The draft of the bill the Senate is expected to vote on today hasn’t been released. Nor has a summary of major provisions. One of its main purposes is to replenish the Small Business Administration’s Payroll Protection Program (PPP) fund, which loans money to businesses to keep workers on the payroll. Efforts are being made to make small- and mid-sized public and nonprofit hospitals, rural hospitals, and about 100 health centers with more than 500 employees eligible for PPP loans. It’s not clear if those expansions made it into the final bill.
The National Association of Community Health Centers has lobbied to include $7.6 billion in emergency funding for community health centers in any next COVID-19 relief bill. America’s Essential Hospitals has lobbied for the next COVID-19 relief bill to shield hospitals from losing 340B eligibility during the pandemic and clarify that providers can get 340B discounts on drugs prescribed via telehealth. It’s not known if those provisions made it into the final bill.
Tweets of Note
340B savings are more important then ever with the COVID pandemic we are facing!
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Vish Patel @Vishrutp04
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As patients in rural communities rely on their local providers more and more during, we need to ensure our safety-net programs, like , are working as intended to help vulnerable or uninsured patients.