The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee today held a hearing to examine the 340B drug savings program. HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said the purpose of the hearing was to learn more about the program and how it “might be improved so that hospitals and clinics can continue to provide low-income patients with help to afford their health care.” Congress created the 340B program 25 years ago to give eligible health care providers financial relief from high prescription drug costs; however, some stakeholders have urged lawmakers to scale back the program. “Skyrocketing drug prices are a dire problem, and they deserve our urgent attention and serious solutions,” said HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA). “Needless to say, rolling back rules to prevent overcharging from drug companies and cutting back programs that help make drugs more affordable is not going to get the job done.” At the hearing, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and others expressed concerns about the 340B program. Cassidy has introduced legislation that would make expansive changes to the 340B program, such as implementing a two-year moratorium on certain new 340B hospitals and hospital outpatient departments that could lead to narrower eligibility criteria for hospital outpatient sites and adding new hospital reporting requirements. Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) said, “The place we most need transparency is in drug pricing,” saying that she wished stakeholders like the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America advocated as strongly for transparency in the pricing of their own members’ products as they have advocated for transparency in 340B. “There’s no transparency in their pricing so they get away with hiking up prices to reap profits without being held accountable all while everyday Americans struggle with drug prices.” In a statement submitted for the hearing, AHA highlighted how hospitals are using savings from the 340B program to provide access to critical services to their communities. The AHA this week ran an ad in Politico urging Congress to protect 340B and highlighting a recent study that found tax-exempt hospitals in the 340B program provided $51.7 billion in total benefits to their communities in 2015.

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