340B providers are sighing relief after U.S. Sen. John Thune (S.D.), a staunch 340B provider ally and the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, announced over the weekend he will seek re-election in November.
Thune announced that he was running on Jan. 8 on Twitter. “After careful consideration and prayer, and with the support of my family, I’m asking South Dakotans for the opportunity to continue serving them in the U.S. Senate,” he said. Last month, Thune told a home-state newspaper he was considering retirement because his wife wanted him back home in South Dakota.
The New York Times reported last month that “former President Donald J. Trump’s enduring grip on the Republican Party” also was prompting Thune to consider retirement. In late December, Thune criticized House Republicans who met with Trump and then-Vice President Mike Pence to discuss how to thwart the counting of Electoral College votes. Trump tweeted that Thune was weak and would lose the state’s Republican primary election, presumably to a Trump loyalist. On Monday, Trump criticized Thune’s home state colleague Sen. Mike Rounds (R) for his comments on national TV Sunday stating that 2020 presidential election was fair.
Thune is a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Medicare and Medicaid programs. 340B health systems are some of the biggest employers in South Dakota. He has introduced a number of bills championed by 340B providers during his Senate career and has been the lead GOP member on a number of sign-on letters to various administrations.
Thune and five Senate colleagues introduced bipartisan legislation in this and the last session of Congress to protect hospitals from losing eligibility for 340B drug discounts during the COVID-19 pandemic. S.773 has 28 co-sponsors with influential GOP lawmaker Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and freshman Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) the latest to sign on.
In February 2021, Thune pressed Xavier Becerra during his confirmation hearing to be U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary to express his commitment to the 340B program. In April 2021, Thune asked Andrea Palm during her confirmation hearing to be HHS deputy secretary how the department would respond to drugmakers denying 340B discounts on drugs dispensed by contract pharmacies and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) imposing conditions on 340B hospitals’ drug reimbursement.