As a hospital CEO and former emergency room physician, I know the challenges facing healthcare providers with a mission to take care of our most vulnerable populations. With the skyrocketing costs of medical technology and specialty pharmaceuticals, shrinking insurance reimbursement and higher levels of uncompensated care, we are forced to become more efficient in delivering services—especially to underinsured and uninsured patients. The 340B drug discount program is a vital part of the solution. It's also in need of champions.
The 340B program requires drug companies to provide discounts to hospitals and other healthcare providers that provide a disproportionate share of care to low-income and other vulnerable patients. It was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush two decades ago with strong bipartisan support. The program now faces unprecedented threats. The pharmaceutical industry and other powerful interest groups want to restrict 340B significantly by limiting hospital and patient eligibility. Big Pharma and its allies have launched aggressive public relations and lobbying campaigns to portray the program as rife with fraud. Even more disappointing, they accuse hospitals and healthcare professionals of making decisions that are not in the best clinical interest of patients.