June 20, 2022— Members of the U.S. House of Representatives from both political parties went to the House floor recently to deliver a historic series of speeches honoring the upcoming 30th anniversary of the 340B drug pricing program and urging their colleagues to defend the program against unlawful attacks by drug companies. The lawmakers’ unified message was that 340B is worth defending because of the multitude of ways in which it enables safety-net providers in their districts to care for patients with low incomes and those living in rural areas of the country.
Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and John Rose (R-Tenn.) led the 340B “special order hour” on the House floor and invited five of their colleagues to join them. The speakers punctuated their remarks with examples of 340B at work helping patients gain access to care and programs that improve the health of communities. Lawmakers shared stories from their own districts and highlighted research documenting the valuable role 340B plays for the health care safety net. Behind the speakers was a poster that read:
“340B hospitals provide 60% of uncompensated hospital care and 75% of Medicaid hospital care, and 340B costs $0 in taxpayer money.” Those data points were drawn from research that 340B Health commissioned.
Representatives also focused Congress’s attention on the damage being caused by drug companies’ restrictions on 340B drug discounts and pharmacy benefit managers’ (PBMs) discriminatory payment policies targeting 340B providers.
Highlights of the House floor remarks include:
Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.)
“Since it came into being nearly 30 years ago, 340B has enabled a strong health care safety net that has served thousands of communities and millions of patients. It has been a lifeline for hospitals, health centers, and clinics that serve patients with low incomes, especially those who are uninsured or on Medicaid and those in rural areas. It has done so with strong bipartisan support and without costing any taxpayer dollars. Again, these savings allow our communities’ hospitals to stretch those federal dollars, to save those federal dollars. This program does not cost a single taxpayer dollar.”
Rep. John Rose (R-Tenn.)
“By their presence on the House floor tonight and the persuasive and powerful words they have spoken, these Members have sent the unmistakable signal that we are all resolutely prepared to fight on behalf of our constituents who benefit from the 340B program, even if it ruffles some powerful feathers. If Big Pharma would just play by the rules and abide by the law, I am sure we wouldn’t be in the position we are today. However, the big pharmaceutical companies aren’t playing by the rules, and they are showing no signs that they have an interest in doing so. All we are asking is that they, too, are held accountable to the law. That is it. Nothing more, nothing less. In the meantime, we will continue to push back on their brazen attempts to undermine the law because I know we are on the right side of this fight.”
Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.)
“I am pleased to join with all of my colleagues who have spoken strongly in favor of revitalizing, reenergizing, making sure that the 340B program is implemented in a very serious way. … I represent a large, urban, low-income community with 23 hospitals, many of which are safety net. I think I may have more hospitals than any single area. A discount for the individuals who use these institutions will be more than helpful to them, so I urge that we continue the program.”
Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García (D-Ill.)
“Let me share a story of an elderly patient at Erie Family Health Centers, which is based in my district. She had no insurance and struggled to afford her diabetes medication. Sadly, this is far too common in my district. The price jumped to $200, and she could not access her pharmacy during the COVID–19 crisis. But thanks to the 340B program, this patient now pays $9 for her medication, and it is delivered for free, straight to her home. This patient is not alone. Many Erie patients would not be able to obtain their insulin without the 340B discount. Unfortunately, this program is currently under assault on several fronts. We have to stand up. And we must protect it.”
Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.)
“Currently, several drug manufacturers are unlawfully withholding or limiting discounts from 340B-covered entities – I personally do not understand this at all – including safety-net hospitals and community health centers. … Last year, we sent a letter demanding HHS take immediate action against manufacturers that refuse to comply with their obligation – I repeat, ‘their obligation’ – to provide CHCs and rural hospital providers with discounted drugs and require manufacturers to refund the providers for months of unlawful overcharges. Today, we are speaking in support of these asks yet again.”
Rep. Chris Pappas (D-N.H.)
“At a time when pharmaceutical companies are reaping record profits, when the cost of prescription drugs continues to skyrocket, it is just unconscionable that there are corporate actors who continue to ignore the law and stick it to our consumers, our constituents, the patients across this country and hand them an astronomical bill. We have all got to join together and commit ourselves to fighting to lower the cost of prescription drugs. This is one area where I think Republicans and Democrats can come together and pass something meaningful. I hope our colleagues will heed the stories they have heard here tonight.
Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.).
“Rural hospitals today, in my experience, having worked within these facilities for almost three decades, most hospitals are lucky to break even, especially rural hospitals. It is very challenging financially, but we know how important they are. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen the 340B program be the difference between a red, losing year, where you bleed money, you lose money – and you can do that for only so long until a hospital has to shutter its doors and lay people off – and perhaps breaking even or even just a slight margin. … The 340B program, I can tell you in all the decades of my health care experience where I have seen it, has made the difference of having a margin to be able to keep the lights on; to be able to invest in lifesaving advances, technology, equipment; and, quite frankly, retain and recruit the best and the brightest.”
To learn more about this historic event, watch the full recording of the House floor speeches. The 45 minutes of viewing is well worth the time.