Congress created the 340B program in 1992 to help uninsured indigent patients gain better access to prescription medications and to allow health centers to stretch scarce federal resources. The 340B program is vitally important for safety net providers and their most vulnerable patients. It lowers drug costs for providers, allowing them to pass along these savings to their patients and maintain and expand other health care services. Congress intended for covered entities to use the benefit of the discount to reach more eligible patients and provide more comprehensive services, and the 340B program has met these essential goals.
There has been a lot of recent scrutiny of the program with questions of whether 340B is serving its mission. Since the program’s enactment, the government has observed on many occasions that 340B is working properly and covered entities are using their program savings to benefit their patients. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a study on the 340B program in which the entities surveyed reported using their 340B savings to maintain health care services and lower drug costs for patients, which is consistent with the purpose of the program.
Furthermore, a survey by the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC), found that community health centers participating in 340B made the proper use of their program savings to benefit their patients.
They reported health centers are able to :
Improve the quality and variety of drugs available
Care for more patients
Provide more services
Lower the cost of drugs to patients
Reduce drug prices to third parties
Offset losses from providing care without compensation
As federal dollars shift and resources become scarce, it is critical that health centers participate in the 340B program to continue to increase patient access and expand services. The commodity provided by health centers is a service. Providers are only capable of seeing so many patients. The focus on patient centered care and the expansion of accountable care organizations makes providers even more accountable for improved patient outcomes. The 340B program will enable health centers to increase access to affordable medication, which will ultimately improve outcomes, and assist in overcoming the impact of the decline in federal and state funding.
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