03.15.18

Senator Murray: Trump’s Backward Steps on 340B “Not Going to Get the Job Done” on Lowering Drug Prices

At HELP hearing on 340B, Murray calls out Trump Administration’s steps to undermine program that makes drugs more affordable

 

President Trump’s CMS has slashed payments to safety net hospitals participating in a program that helps make drugs more affordable

 

President Trump has delayed HRSA rule to prevent drug companies from overcharging safety net providers

 

Senator Murray shared stories from several Washington state institutions about how they use 340B to serve vulnerable communities

 

Senator Murray noted the importance of transparency and accountability for all parties in strengthening and preserving 340B

 

***WATCH SEN. MURRAY’S OPENING REMARKS HERE***

 

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, delivered opening remarks at a Committee hearing on the 340B program which helps hospitals and health centers serving vulnerable populations to stretch their resources further by ensuring they have access to discounted drug prices.

 

In her opening remarks, Senator Murray highlighted several 340B receiving entities in Washington state and shared stories about how the savings have helped these organizations serve struggling patients. Senator Murray spoke about the importance of having transparency and accountability for pharmaceutical companies that provide, and entities that purchase, 340B drugs. She also criticized President Trump’s actions toward the 340B program as breaking his promise to lower drug prices. President Trump’s Administration has delayed a rule from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) that would have ensured drug companies aren’t overcharging for 340B drugs and planned to cut back payments from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) toward 340B entities.

 

Key excerpts of Senator Murray’s remarks:

 

“For over a quarter of a century, the 340B program has been a critical safety net for health providers that bear the burden of caring for some of our patients and communities with the greatest needs and fewest resources. The 340B program was started in 1992 with a simple goal, to ‘stretch scarce federal resources’ to ‘provide more comprehensive services’ to vulnerable populations. The way it works is equally simple—it requires pharmaceutical companies to make drugs more affordable for certain health providers serving vulnerable population and low-income patients. Those savings can help providers stretch their resources even further.”

 

 “Skyrocketing drug prices are a dire problem, they deserve our urgent attention and serious solutions. Needless to say, rolling back rules to prevent overcharging from drug companies, and cutting back programs that help make drugs more affordable, is not going to get the job done.”

“The cost of 340B discounts to the pharmaceutical industry is about 1 percent of the total U.S. drug market. That is by no measure a big dent. It’s a single penny out of every dollar. But that small penny—that small percent—can make a big difference. It can make a difference to the low-income patients and communities who couldn’t otherwise afford the treatment they need. And it can make a difference to the hospitals and health centers who couldn’t otherwise stretch their resources far enough to care for these communities.”

 

Video of Sen. Murray’s remarks available HERE.

  

Full text below of Sen. Murray’s remarks:

 

“Thank you Mr. Chairman, and thank you to all the witnesses joining us to discuss the 340B program which has helped so many hospitals and health centers stretch their resources and serve their communities.

 

“Today’s hearing is very important, and very long overdue.

 

“For over a quarter of a century, the 340B program has been a critical safety net for health providers that bear the burden of caring for some of our patients and communities with the greatest needs and fewest resources. The 340B program was started in 1992 with a simple goal, to ‘stretch scarce federal resources’ to ‘provide more comprehensive services’ to vulnerable populations. The way it works is equally simple—it requires pharmaceutical companies to make drugs more affordable for certain health providers serving vulnerable population and low-income patients. Those savings can help providers stretch their resources even further.

 

“Like at St. Mary Medical Center in Walla Walla, Washington. In 2016, two out of every five patients they saw were on Medicare. Another one in five was either on Medicaid or uninsured. 340B savings helped the hospital support school-based health clinics for at-risk elementary and high school students, run a drive-thru flu clinic to provide free vaccines to hundreds of low-income families, and provide low-cost or free medications.

 

“At Sacred Heart Medical Center and Children’s Hospital in Spokane, Washington a third of their 2016 patients were on Medicare, with another third on Medicaid or uninsured. When one of their elderly patients didn’t know how he could afford a $400 medicine, 340B savings helped the hospital charge only $80—a fifth of the cost—a price he could manage. And he’s not the only one—Sacred Heart gives away as much as $55 million dollars a year in free and discounted care.

 

“You can also see 340B at work at the University of Washington, which has used 340B savings to stretch its reach with innovative initiatives. Like the University’s tele-pain program, which is combatting the opioid epidemic through innovative audio and video conferencing support for providers treating rural patients who struggle to manage chronic pain. This program, doesn’t just work in Washington, participants cover Wyoming, Montana, Oregon, Idaho, and beyond.

 

“The University also runs the Third Avenue Center, which provides physical and mental health care to women experiencing homelessness. The center is co-located at the YWCA Angeline’s Women’s shelter so that vulnerable women can access coordinated care in a safe environment.

 

“These great programs are made possible by 340B savings. And they are just a few examples of how the 340B program can be a great resource for doing good.

 

“Of course, for us to ensure this program does good, we must ask whether it is implemented well, and we must ask whether we can make it better.

 

“Accountability and transparency are important to address concerns about whether entities are using their 340B savings appropriately, and whether pharmaceutical manufacturers are providing discounts fairly. We can, and should, provide accountability in a way that strengthens and preserves this program.

 

“Unfortunately, despite President Trump’s repeated promises to tackle drug prices, when it comes to the 340B program—which actually helps reduce drug costs—his record shows only broken promises and backwards steps.

 

“Like when he sabotaged an attempt to make sure drug companies play by the rules.

 

“When Congress passed the Affordable Care Act, we gave the Health Resources and Services Administration, or HRSA new tools to keep the 340B program accountable. HRSA has taken steps to provide greater education and conduct more audits to prevent hospitals and providers from taking advantage of the system. And—after the HHS inspector general found many drug companies were overcharging—HRSA finally drafted a rule to make sure drug companies were actually giving the full discounts required.

 

“However, President Trump continues to delay this rule designed to hold drug companies accountable for overcharging.

 

“And President Trump took another enormous step backward when his Administration implemented a significant cut to the 340B program.

 

“The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has traditionally reimbursed 340B eligible hospitals for drugs at the same rate as all other hospitals. However, this year they are making unnecessary cuts and paying less than 80 percent of market price—reducing the ability of 340B providers to offer the outstanding services patients and families count on.

 

“Skyrocketing drug prices are a dire problem, they deserve our urgent attention and serious solutions. Needless to say, rolling back rules to prevent overcharging from drug companies, and cutting back programs that help make drugs more affordable, is not going to get the job done.

 

“The cost of 340B discounts to the pharmaceutical industry is about 1 percent of the total U.S. drug market. That is by no measure a big dent. It’s a single penny out of every dollar. But that small penny—that small percent—can make a big difference.

 

“It can make a difference to the low-income patients and communities who couldn’t otherwise afford the treatment they need. And it can make a difference to the hospitals and health centers who couldn’t otherwise stretch their resources far enough to care for these communities.

 

“So I’m interested to hear from all of our witnesses today about how we can make sure the 340B program is accountable enough to fulfill its intent and strong enough to continue serving our communities for generations to come.

 

“Thank you Mr. Chairman.” 

 

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