Half of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) has asked Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure to end the nearly 30% cut in Medicare Part B drug payments to 340B hospitals.
Reps. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) and Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.) led 27 of their CBC colleagues in writing the Sept. 24 letter to Brooks-LaSure, the first Black woman to lead CMS. The caucus has 57 members—two senators, 53 representatives, and two non-voting delegates, all Democrats. Neither senator, Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), signed, although that is not shocking since bicameral sign-on letters are rare.
The letter noted the significant role 340B plays in healthcare for minority patients.
“340B hospitals are a critical source of care for patients of color who are often underserved and subject to inequities that impair their access to quality healthcare and outcomes,” the CBC members said. “340B hospitals also serve a high proportion of Medicare beneficiaries, many of whom are Black, disabled, and/or living with low incomes. Lastly, these hospitals also serve a high proportion of patients of color who are living with chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, among others.”
The Trump administration began the cuts in 2018, claiming they aligned Part B reimbursement more closely with 340B drug acquisition costs and reduced beneficiaries drug co-payments. Part B payment for 340B disproportionate share hospitals, rural referral centers, and non-rural sole community hospitals fell from the standard average sales price +6% to ASP -22.5%.
“Since the cuts began, 340B hospitals, subject to the cuts, have collectively lost hundreds of millions of dollars, harming their ability to fund critical services for patients,” the CBC members said.
The Biden administration proposed continuing the cuts in its hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment System (OPPS) proposed rule for calendar year 2022. Sept. 17 was the deadline for comments. CMS normally issues its OPPS final rule for the coming year in early November.
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments about the legality of the cuts on Nov. 30.
Hospital group 340B Health praised the CBC member’s letter to Brooks-LaSure.
“Eliminating the longstanding inequities in healthcare is a national priority and 340B hospitals play a critical role,” 340B Health President and CEO Maureen Testoni said. “The Medicare payment cuts implemented by the previous administration are making that work much more difficult and we hope that CMS heeds the advice of these CBC members and reverses this damaging policy.”