There is a 340B angle in the fight in the U.S. House over who should be third in the Republican leadership ranks.
The GOP caucus is expected to vote tomorrow to remove Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) as House Republican Conference chair and replace her with Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), one of the 340B program’s most vocal advocates in the House.
Cheney, who was elected House GOP conference chair in January, voted to impeach former President Trump for fomenting his supporters to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6 to stop the counting of Electoral College votes. Cheney rejects Trump’s claim that the election was stolen from him.
House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Sunday endorsed Stefanik’s bid to replace Cheney. “We need a conference that’s united,” he said in a television news interview. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), the second-ranking House Republican, endorsed Stefanik last Wednesday.
Stefanik’s sprawling northwestern New York congressional district has more than 80 340B covered entities, according to U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) data. She meets regularly with 340B providers in her district and at the U.S. Capitol, has not been shy in expressing her strong support for the program and its importance to the health care providers in upstate New York.
In 2017, Stefanik co-sponsored a bipartisan bill that would have reversed President Trump’s proposed steep Medicare Part B cuts to 340B hospitals. She was also one of the Republican leaders of a bipartisan letter to Seema Verma, then chief of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, asking that the cuts be halted. The Trump administration, nevertheless, imposed the cuts in 2018 and hospital groups have asked the Biden administration to stop them.
More recently, Stefanik was co-signer of a bipartisan letter to the Biden administration demanding that HRSA reject pharmaceutical company efforts to block the use of 340B discounts by contract pharmacies.
“I strongly urge the Biden Administration to take action against corporate drug manufacturers that are not complying with the obligations under the 340B program statute, and therefore making it increasingly difficult for North Country hospitals to administer life-saving drugs at a discounted price to patients in need,” Stefanik said at the time.
Typically, House members elevated to senior positions tend to focus more on national party matters and have less time to devote to issues in their district. An example of that is Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), who was Republican Conference Chair before Cheney. A strong supporter of 340B earlier in her career, McMorris Rodgers’ advocacy for the program waned after her promotion. That raises some concerns that Stefanik’s support for 340B may also fade.
“Congresswoman Stefanik has long been a strong supporter of the 340B program, and the community health centers who rely on 340B to provide affordable, high-quality care to over 30 million underserved patients,” said Colleen Meiman, national policy adviser for state and regional health center associations. “It is our hope that she will continue her efforts to protect and strengthen the 340B program going forward.”
“We are hopeful that Rep. Stefanik, if appointed (to the Republican Conference Chair) will remain a stalwart champion for the 340B program,” said another industry figure who asked not to be identified.
Stefanik’s spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment.