While Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) and other lawmakers Oct. 11 said they generally support the federal 340B drug discount program, they said they want more accountability and transparency in the program.
The 340B program helps hospitals and other eligible entities stretch their resources so they can provide more care for uninsured and underinsured patients, Griffith said at a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. But, he said the dramatic growth of the program and the lack of information about how it is used have led to questions about whether it has grown beyond Congress’s original intent.
Under the program, drug manufacturers provide outpatient drugs to covered entities, such as safety-net hospitals, at significantly reduced prices. Currently, covered entities aren’t required to report the savings they receive from the program and how they use those savings to the Department of Health and Human Services. The pharmaceutical industry has been critical of the program and wants Congress to make changes to the program to ensure it is benefiting patients.
Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the full Energy and Commerce Committee, agreed with Griffith, saying the lack of transparency requirements has resulted in inconsistent data and better data are needed. But he offered some praise for the program, saying he’s met with officials at rural hospitals who have told him it is vital to maintaining their levels of charity care. “For some entities, this program is the difference between keeping their doors open and closing,” he said.
Meanwhile, Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), ranking member of the full committee, said a panel investigation “found covered entities rely on 340B funds to provide a diverse range of essential services to the community.” According to Pallone, the discount program could be improved by increasing transparency, but it’s clear that 340B entities are using the savings to provide care, and Congress should support these efforts.
A House Energy and Commerce Committee spokeswoman didn’t return a request for comment on whether the panel has planned any future actions related to the 340B program.
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