September 19, 2019— Jefferson County in southeast Arkansas has its share of health problems that include higher-than-average rates of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. But this predominantly rural community faces additional challenges that stem from the socioeconomic status of its residents – challenges that the region’s safety-net hospital tackles with the help of the 340B drug pricing program.
More than 40 percent of the residents of Jefferson County live below the federal poverty level, making the cost of care a large concern. Located in Pine Bluff, Jefferson Regional Medical Center is working hard to ensure these patients obtain the care they need by removing barriers that are in the way. The 471-bed disproportionate share (DSH) hospital serves 11 counties and participates in 340B to support its approach to expanding local access to care.
Lelan Stice is JRMC’s director of pharmacy, cardiology, and surgery and is the newest profile in our Faces of 340B video series. He points to 340B as a major component to the center’s tailored approach to meeting its community’s unique health needs.
JRMC has responded to chronic disease and affordability challenges by using its 340B savings to offer patients significant discounts on costly drugs they need to stay healthy. For diabetic patients, for example, JRMC provides insulin to eligible low-income patients at the 340B price plus a small dispensing fee. That cuts the cost from more than $300 a vial to about $40.
“Insulin has become hyper-expensive, and the market has gone up significantly over the last 10 to 15 years – much more so than most drugs,” Stice says.
JRMC also operates an oncology infusion program created primarily for patients who are uninsured or who are on Medicaid. With the help of 340B discounts, that program barely covers the costs of delivering that care. Without 340B, Stice says, they would lose $1 million per year. “It would be very difficult for us to sustain that,” he says.
Check out Lelan’s video profile at our Faces of 340B website.