On October 21, the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) filed suit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The suit urges HHS to take actions to stop drug manufacturer attacks on the 340B federal drug discount program. Pressure from the suit pushes HHS to implement a resolution process that would allow health centers to act against drug companies that are violating the 340B statute by discontinuing the shipping of discounted drugs to contracted health center pharmacies. In its filing, NACHC noted, “The [drug] manufacturers’ abrupt about-face, after decades of shipping [health centers’] purchases of 340B-priced drugs to their contract pharmacies—during a global pandemic and a recession—is not only callous, but a clear violation of 340B statutory requirements and the binding pharmaceutical pricing agreements manufacturers have with HHS.”
The 340B program enables community health centers, such as All Care Health Center, to have the ability to make medications affordable to low-income patients and to generate savings that are used to expand access to other crucial services. JoLynn Ahmann, All Care Health Center Pharmacy Director, states, “With the manufacturers not following 340B statutes, our uninsured patients will not be able to afford insulin, inhalers, and other high-cost medicines.” Without 340B, most community health centers would be unable to provide their low-income and uninsured patients necessary and life-saving medications. In addition, Ahmann continues, “While manufacturers are creating their own rules, it is affecting the amount of savings dollars collected through the 340B program that we [All Care Health Center] can put toward our own high quality care.”
In 2019, alone, All Care served 6,129 patients throughout southwest Iowa and eastern Nebraska. Of these patients, 50% fell below poverty level, and 93% had incomes less than 200% of poverty level. 23% of patients were uninsured; 48% are covered by Medicaid. The need is great. NACHC estimates that 10 million low-income patients, nation-wide will suffer reduced access to health center services and affordable medicine unless HHS acts now to protect the program.
To familiarize readers with these agencies:
The NACHC was founded to promote efficient, high quality, comprehensive health care that is accessible, culturally and linguistically competent, community directed, and patient-centered for all.
The mission of the HHS is to enhance the health and well-being of all Americans, by providing for effective health and human services and by fostering sound, sustained advances in the sciences underlying medicine, public health, and social services.