A Kansas Republican congressman on Tuesday urged fellow House members in a brief floor speech to “reaffirm our commitment to protecting” the 340B program.
Rep. Jake LaTurner (R-Kan.) congratulated 340B on its 30th anniversary. He said the program “has helped low-income families afford essential medications by requiring pharmaceutical companies to give safety-net and rural healthcare providers discounts on prescription drugs.”
“In my home State of Kansas, we have over 80 hospitals that use 340B savings,” LaTurner said. “Not only do 340B hospitals provide heavily discounted prescription medications, they also make additional healthcare services, such as trauma care and substance abuse treatment available to most of our vulnerable patients.”
Last November during a forum held by Republicans on the U.S. House Oversight and Investigations Committee, LaTurner said pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) are taking away health centers and other safety net providers’ 340B savings and driving up their costs.
Planned Hour of Pro-340B Speeches Postponed
LaTurner’s praise for 340B came on the same day that an hour’s worth of accolades for 340B by other House members was postponed. A new date has not yet been announced.
Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) are the organizers. Spanberger’s office notified contacts about the postponement by email. No reason was given. “Reps. Spanberger and Johnson appreciate the tremendous interest in the event, and we are committed to holding it as soon as we can,” the mail said.
According to Peggy Tighe, principal at Powers Law and legislative counsel to Ryan White Clinics for 340B (RWC-340B), more than a dozen members of Congress had signed up to deliver speeches Tuesday night. She said Spanberger and Johnson “agreed that doing bipartisan special orders on 340B would bring much needed congressional and public attention to the plight of safety net providers, especially regarding the unresolved issue” of drug manufacturers refusing to give 340B discounts to contract pharmacies.
Special orders are end-of-day remarks, usually to an empty chamber but watched live by many on television and published in that day’s edition of the Congressional Record.
Tighe said special order speeches “provide one of the few opportunities for non-legislative debate in the House. They also give members a chance to speak outside the time restrictions that govern legislative debate in the House.”
Tighe noted that special orders must be approved by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and that she “blessed” the speeches about 340B.
That the speeches are being delayed could prove a blessing for 340B covered entities as well.
“There was a lot of attention paid by national groups to enlisting member groups to contact Congress,” Tighe said of Spanberger and Johnson’s organizing. “We now have more time to do that and may end up with many more members signing up to do this.”