Community Voices for 340B (CV340B), the first non-profit grassroots organization focused on promoting the importance of the 340B program, kicked off the first of series of regional educational webinars scheduled last week. The event, which was focused on the Northeast part of the nation, was intended to galvanize support for 340B from state and local leaders.
Panelists were from an urban teaching hospital in northern New Jersey, a critical access hospital in northwest Vermont, and an organization that operates community health centers outside of Pittsburgh. Other participants included Rhiannon Marshall-Klein, CV340B’s national advocacy manager, John Reid, the organization’s Texas field director, and Peggy Tighe, principal with the Washington, D.C. law firm of Powers Pyles Sutter & Verville.
Porter Medical Center is a 25-bed critical access hospital in Middlebury, Vt. The 340B program “has been helping us to keep our doors open since then,” observed Renee Mosier, Porter’s pharmacy director. She added that Porter is the nearest hospital within a 40-mile radius, and many residents have no other alternatives for health care services.
The 340B program provides Porter $3.2 million in net annual savings. Along with funding nearly $1 million annually in charity care to hospital patients and covering their co-pays and deductibles for high-priced drugs, it also funds the distribution of EpiPens to more than 350 patients; the distribution of free inhalers and antibiotics to pediatric patients; a palliative care program for terminally ill patients; and even the distribution of vegetables to supplement the nutrition of some of the poorest individuals in the community.
Mosier noted that these 340B-funded programs play a key role in keeping residents out of Porter’s emergency room and reducing their health care costs.
Moreover, “most of our capital expenditures would not be possible without our 340B savings,” Mosier said. “So if we need a new ultrasound machine, chances are it’s the 340B savings that have played a role in our being able to update that equipment.”
St. Joseph’s University Medical Center, a 651-bed teaching hospital in Paterson, N.J., is the flagship of the St. Joseph’s Health system and one of the largest hospitals in the most densely populated state in the nation. 340B paid for more than 15,500 prescriptions for uninsured patients last year and more than 7,300 through the first few months of 2021. It also helps fund a program that dispenses free prescriptions to uninsured and underinsured patients for the first 90 days after they’re discharged.
The top prescriptions subsidized by 340B helps manage chronic illnesses like diabetes and hypertension. The program has helped cut St. Joseph’s readmission rates and visits to the emergency room by recently hospitalized patients, according to Fiorella Vera Saldana, the hospital’s 340B pharmacy program manager. In addition, 340B also helped patients access high-cost specialty drugs as well, she added. And 340B also allowed the hospital to stock drugs and supplies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s really important to recognize how synonymous the 340B program aim is to our mission,” Saldana said.
At Cornerstone Care Community Health, which operates 14 community health center sites south and southwest of Pittsburgh, 340B funds a mobile clinic that treats about 20,000 patients a year. It provides lab tests, management of chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension, sports and employment physical exams, dentistry, and a suite of women’s health services that include pregnancy testing, breast exams and mammogram referrals. It also provides STI testing at area college campuses.
“I’m really proud of what the (340B) program does to help our mobile services,” said Nicole Coneybeer, Cornerstone’s pharmacy program administrator. She noted that the mobile van is able to reach more rural areas of southwest Pennsylvania where patients may not be able to obtain transportation to visit one of Cornerstone’s clinics. Along with its other services, the mobile clinic has played a key role in testing and vaccinating for COVID-19 over the past year.
“The program is crucial to serving our communities and reaching our mission as a community health center,” Coneybeer said.
Moreover, as the pandemic shut many of its clinics and reduced patient encounters some 60% at its peak, 340B “helped us just keep the doors open,” Coneybeer observed.
Cornerstone is currently trying to pool enough money to purchase a second mobile unit by year’s end that would be dedicated to providing dental services.
“I can’t say enough about the good this program does for patients in our communities,” Coneybeer stated.