A report paid for by a group backed by the pharmaceutical industry is the latest in a series of attempts to misrepresent a program that has a proven track record of helping poor patients and vulnerable communities.
For more than 20 years, the 340B Drug Pricing Program has provided financial relief from high prescription drug costs allowing eligible hospitals to stretch limited federal resources to reduce drug costs and expand health services to patients.
Yesterday’s report says 340B hospitals are more likely than non-340B hospitals to acquire independent physician practices. The group that sponsored the report claims that policymakers should examine whether the discounts hospitals receive by participating in the 340B program are fueling this trend.
However, the report uses a questionable data methodology to identify hospitals that “potentially” acquired physician practices. In addition, the report identified only 143 hospitals, 87 of which participated in the 340B program, as “possibly acquiring” at least one physician practice from 2009-2013. The report also states that only 71 of those hospitals participated in 340B both during and prior to the acquisition month, and it does not attempt to examine whether these hospitals’ 340B status remained intact for a considerable period of time after the acquisition. These are very small numbers over a five-year period, and they do not make the case for the trend the group is trying to claim.
Moreover, the report itself admits that “there are numerous reasons why a hospital would decide to acquire a physician practice.” Hospitals are implementing new and better ways to deliver care that achieve better outcomes for patients. This includes hospitals strengthening ties to each other and to physicians to implement electronic medical records, coordinate care across the entire health care continuum and respond to new payment systems.
Finally, the report concludes that “it is beyond the scope of this study to determine whether 340B itself is contributing to physician practice acquisitions.”
Given the increasingly high cost of pharmaceuticals, the 340B program provides critical support to help hospitals’ efforts to build healthy communities. It is important for policymakers and the public to see through the attempt by the pharmaceutical industry to disparage a program that helps provide access to care for vulnerable communities. To learn about how hospitals use the 340B program to benefit their patients and communities, visit www.aha.org/Protect340B.