Legislation Could Help Reduce Prescription Drug Costs for Hospitals, Opinion Piece States
"Sicko," the recent documentary on the U.S. health care system directed by filmmaker Michael Moore, highlights the need to "address the challenges of improving access to pharmaceutical care," Ted Slafsky, executive director of Safety Net Hospitals for Pharmaceutical Access, writes in an opinion piece in The Hill. According to Slafsky, the "burden of providing pharmaceutical care to vulnerable patients falls increasingly on our nation's hospitals, clinics and health centers, particularly those with a charitable care mission" as prescription drug costs continue to increase and the number of uninsured U.S. residents nears 47 million.
He cites the need to pass legislation sponsored by Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and John Thune (R-S.D.) and Reps. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.) that would extend 340B, a program operated by the Public Health Service that provides prescription drug discounts to hospitals that serve a large number of low-income and uninsured patients. The discounts currently "only apply to drugs used on an outpatient basis due to the way the 340B law was written in 1992," and hospitals must pay an average of 25% more for "drugs given to patients that are admitted into their facility for an overnight stay," Slafsky writes. He adds that the legislation would "extend federal drug discounts to the inpatient setting for these charitable hospitals" and would "create savings for ... Medicaid" through a provision to require the hospitals to "share the savings" with the program.
The legislation "certainly would not solve our health care woes," but "it would go a long way toward ensuring that safety net hospitals in this country can continue their mission of providing care to all patients regardless of their ability to pay," Slafsky concludes (Slafsky, The Hill, 9/11).