The Republican-led U.S. House Energy & Commerce health subcommittee late yesterday announced a March 28 hearing on “how transparency and competition can lower health care costs for Americans.”
Although the hearing announcement is silent about the 340B program it is expected to come up. During a media interview in December, subcommittee chair Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.) was asked if Congress should make hospital pricing information more accessible. He said he thought hearings and legislation were needed and cited the example in a New York Times investigative story of hospitals charging payers full price for drugs they buy at a deep 340B discount.
The hearing announcement’s timing also is noteworthy. It came just hours before Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and the National Association of Community Health Centers announced they are working together to ensure that the 340B program “benefits patients and true safety-net providers.”
The hearing is scheduled for March 28 at 1:00 p.m. Eastern. The main session of the 340B Coalition annual winter conference in San Diego begins that same day at 8:00 a.m. Pacific/ 11:00 a.m. Eastern. During the last time the GOP controlled the E&C Committee during the period of 2017-2019, committee leaders held a number of hearings on the 340B program and Republican members of the committee introduced a flood of 340B reform bills largely focused on curtailing the program. None of the bills made it to the House floor.
“Americans are dealing with exorbitant price increases across the board, which may force financially strained patients to forgo medical treatment,” Guthrie and full committee chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) said. “There are bipartisan areas of agreement in health care policy to address the cost of care, and the Energy and Commerce Committee will seek to plow the hard ground necessary to build legislative solutions. This hearing will give our members an opportunity to discuss the role that transparency and competition can play in helping to make health care more accessible and affordable.”