The six U.S. senators who asked Friday morning for ideas on ways to improve the 340B program elaborated on their reasons why in a news release that afternoon.
Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) on June 16 invited 340B program stakeholders to write to them about “bipartisan policy solutions that would ensure the program has stability and oversight to continue to achieve its original intention of serving eligible patients.”
The group’s “request for information” is seen as an opening move toward getting bipartisan 340B legislation drafted, passed by both chambers of Congress, and signed by President Biden. July 28 is the deadline for responses. It did not say what its next step will be, or when.
Last month, the Republican-controlled House Energy and Committee—with just one Democrat voting yes— passed GOP legislation to impose significant 340B program reporting requirements on hospitals and possibly other covered entities.
The six senators want input specifically on:
- federal 340B oversight authority and enforcement power
- 340B contract pharmacy arrangements
- 340B benefitting covered entities and their patients, not other parties
- making drug claims information available to prevent duplicate discounts
- “common sense, targeted program integrity measures”
- showing how entities use 340B savings to support patient care.
“The 340B program has been critical to South Dakota hospitals, health centers, and safety-net providers,” Thune said in the group’s news release. “I continue to hear concerns from many of the health care providers in South Dakota about uncertainty in the program. It is critical that the 340B program continues to serve its original purpose of supporting health care providers as they serve the needs of South Dakota patients and communities.”
“The 340B program helps safety-net providers care for patients by reducing pharmaceutical costs,” said Stabenow. “Receiving input from stakeholders will help ensure that this program continues to be effective.”
“The 340B program plays a critical role in ensuring West Virginians receive the health care services they need to live healthier lives,” said Capito. “The information we receive from the program’s stakeholders will help us better understand what is necessary to ensure the program has the stability and oversight to continue serving West Virginians.”
“I continue to be concerned by the rising cost of prescription drugs that undermine this essential program, which helps deliver affordable medications to underserved communities,” said Baldwin. “I am proud to work with my Democratic and Republican colleagues to find solutions to increase transparency and accountability so that the 340B program can work as intended and provide relief for Americans who are struggling.”
“The 340B Drug Pricing Program is not working as effectively as it should,” said Moran. “The confusion around its contract pharmacy provision and lack of transparency and congressional oversight is failing the patients the program exists to help. In considering improvements to 340B, my colleagues and I look forward to reviewing the stakeholder responses to our Request for Information and using these proposals as a starting point for productive conversations.”
“Since its founding, the 340B program has played a key role in supporting the health care safety net,” said Cardin. “I am committed to ensuring the integrity of the program to ensure our most vulnerable communities have access to affordable, high-quality health care.”
The request for information describes 340B’s purpose as “to stretch scare federal resources as far as possible, reaching more eligible patients and providing more comprehensive services.” This message is consistent with the one advanced by national 340B provider groups. Drug manufacturers and some in Congress favor narrowing 340B’s focus to indigent patients.
The six lawmakers, led by Thune, the Senate’s second ranking Republican, have a history of advocating on behalf of 340B providers. Their bipartisan show of support and interest in 340B stands in contrast to other lawmakers who have sponsored or are trying to advance 340B legislation that does not have a widespread support, said Peggy Tighe, counsel to Ryan White Clinics for 340B Access, during a subscriber-only webinar hosted by 340B Report yesterday.