Fifty-seven senators Friday urged the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to “carefully consider stakeholder feedback” before the agency finalizes its proposal to reduce Medicare Part B payment for drugs acquired through the 340B Drug Pricing Program. “The long-term success of the 340B program is imperative," the senators wrote.  

“As CMS finalizes the 2018 [outpatient prospective payment system] rule, we implore you to carefully consider stakeholder concerns and feedback, and to act to ensure that reimbursement for 340B providers enables them to continue serving the most vulnerable.”

CMS has proposed to pay for separately payable, non pass-through drugs purchased through the 340B program at the average sales price minus 22.5%, rather than the current rate of ASP plus 6%.

Sens. John Thune, R-S.D., Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and Bill Nelson, D-Fla., spearheaded the letter.

“The AHA thanks Senators Thune, Nelson, Portman, Baldwin, Capito, and Stabenow for leading this bipartisan effort to protect patient care by urging CMS to ensure that 340B hospitals can continue to serve the most vulnerable,” said AHA Executive Vice President Tom Nickels. “For 25 years, the 340B Drug Pricing Program has been critical in helping hospitals expand access to lifesaving prescription drugs and comprehensive health care to low-income patients in communities across the country.”

The senators’ action followed a similar effort by 228 House lawmakers who on Sept. 27 urged CMS to abandon its proposed 340B payment cut.

“Given the important role that the 340B program plays in our communities, we strongly urge CMS to abandon this proposal and redirect its efforts toward actions to address the cost of drugs via other policies that would not harm our constituents,” the representatives wrote. Reps. David McKinley. R-W.Va., Mike Thompson, D-Calif., and David Kustoff,  R-Tenn., spearheaded the letter.

In other 340B news, the AHA and Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) touted the program’s benefits in an Oct. 5 letter to leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and its Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

The 340B Drug Pricing Program “has enabled hospitals and health systems to support and expand access and services consistent with their mission and the program’s original and ongoing charge,” the AHA and AAMC wrote. They provided examples of how hospitals and health systems have used 340B savings to expand access and services. These include supporting neonatal intensive care units and training for physicians to care for vulnerable newborns; providing low-income patients with free outpatient drugs; and pharmacist counseling services for medication therapy disease management, including telephone consultations for outpatients with conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and asthma. The letter also notes that the 340B program is not federally funded, and 340B sales are less than 3% of the total U.S. drug market.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee will hold a hearing on the 340B program Oct. 11

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