A U.S. House Republican task force assigned to develop proposals the party can advance if the GOP takes the majority in the November elections apparently chose not to make recommendations for the 340B program.
The Healthy Future Task Force’s affordability subcommittee announced its proposals today in The Daily Signal, an online news service published by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. The subcommittee also issued a one-page paper describing its ideas.
In January, the subcommittee solicited responses to questions “on design considerations for legislation to make healthcare more affordable.” The list included a long section about the 340B program. The panel specifically sought input about 340B eligibility requirements for hospitals and child sites, reporting requirements for all covered entities, independent audits of some covered entities and contract pharmacies, other policies to reduce 340B duplicate discounts, and emerging issues due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The National Association of Community Health Centers told the subcommittee in response to the invitation for input that “congressional action may be the only solution” to drug makers’ “aggressive actions to limit patients’ access to affordable medications at contract pharmacies.”
The American Hospitals Association told the subcommittee that, “Despite repeated calls from the Department of Health and Human Services to stop these unlawful practices, pharmaceutical manufacturers have continued to violate the statute by knowingly overcharging for 340B drugs.”
The subcommittee’s article for the Heritage Foundation and its one-pager, however, are silent about 340B.
Under the heading “Lower Costs and Increase Choices Through Competition” (the grouping under which it asked its 340B questions in January), the subcommittee says House Republicans will:
- Build upon the Trump administration’s site-neutrality rules and create more fairness in the payment system by passing legislation to 1) ensure CMS pays the same Medicare rates for drugs and clinic visits at physician offices and hospitals, 2) reform the inpatient-only list, and 3) end inappropriate billing practices that lead to higher costs for patients.
- Give patients more ways to receive high-quality care by repealing the moratorium on physician-owned hospitals.
- Conduct congressional oversight of the Federal Trade Commission to ensure it is correctly utilizing its statutory authority to investigate harmful consolidation and promote competition.
Spokespersons for subcommittee chair Kevin Hearn (R-Okla.) and full committee co-chair Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.) did not immediately respond to requests for comments about 340B’s exclusion from the subcommittee’s proposals today.
There is still a strong chance that the 340B program will be getting more attention in the next Congress. If the GOP takes over the House as expected, the House Energy and Commerce Committee could take another crack at placing additional restrictions on the 340B program. During the last session controlled by Republicans, several hearings were held raising concerns with 340B’s growth and over a dozen pharmaceutical-industry friendly bills were introduced in the committee. None of the bills made it the House floor, likely since not all House Republicans favored the changes to the 340B program.