U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee staff members reportedly have decided to exclude 340B issues from a bipartisan drug policy bill they are writing behind the scenes in order to preserve the bill’s odds of being passed next week.
News organization Politico reported Friday that HELP committee Democratic and GOP staff are drafting a bill to address complaints about pharmacy benefit managers and increase access to generic versions of medicines. The committee plans to mark up and vote on the bill on April 19, Politico said.
340B provider representatives said yesterday that they tried but were unable to persuade committee staff to include language in the bill addressing PBM discrimination against 340B providers. According to one representative, committee staff decided that injecting 340B into the bill would overwhelm everything else and “suck the air out of the room.” Another said 340B likely would be “a next step or a next piece of legislation.” A third provider representative said committee staff said there is no consensus yet between Democrats and Republicans on 340B.
Bipartisan legislation to shield 340B providers from PBM discrimination, the PROTECT 340B Act, was just reintroduced in the House last week. Senate HELP committee member Tim Kaine (Va.) often is mentioned as the likely Democratic co-sponsor of the anticipated Senate version.
During a Senate HELP hearing last month on community health centers, Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) asked a witness to explain how PBMs “have found a way to make money off the 340B program” by “shav[ing] off savings that Congress intended to go to the safety net providers to support vulnerable patient populations.”
“I hope the staff is taking note of this,” Marshall said.
PBM infringement on 340B covered entity savings also came up during a Senate Finance Committee hearing late last month.