Congressman David Trone, who serves Maryland’s Sixth District in the United States House of Representatives, recently voiced his support for the 340B Drug Pricing Program that lowers drug costs for rural health care providers and noted the fate of the program was just one of the challenges facing rural health care in the time of COVID.
The federal 340B program allows eligible health care entities, such as hospitals, to purchase outpatient drugs from pharmaceutical companies at significantly reduced costs. These health care entities can then roll those savings into patient care. Representative Trone is co-sponsoring a bill in the House of Representatives that would provide flexibility for the 340B Program for the duration of the COVID pandemic.
Mark Boucot, President & CEO of Garrett Regional Medical Center (GRMC), a 55-bed acute care facility located in one of Maryland’s most rural counties, agrees that the impact of 340B on rural health care providers is significant.
“The 340B Drug Pricing Program plays a significant role in our ability to ensure that patients of limited means can receive the care they need,” noted Mr. Boucot. “At Garrett Regional Medical Center, we use the savings realized through the program to help fund specialty care, such as cancer care and infusion services. In 2019, GRMC provided approximately $5 million in uncompensated charity care to patients from throughout our 8-county service area. The loss of the 340B program would significantly impact our ability to meet the needs of our patients.”
The 340B program has been available for use by eligible health care institutions throughout the United States since Congress passed legislation creating it in 1992. Even though no tax dollars are needed or used in its implementation, each year Congress considers eliminating the program or reducing it significantly.
Congressman Trone has worked throughout his tenure to preserve the program. This year, he signed a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar asking that the program be protected from pharmaceutical industry efforts to reduce and restrict 340B pricing. He also signed a letter to Stephen Ubl, CEO of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, asking that Mr. Ubl work with the organization’s member companies to maintain the program.
“I understand the importance of this program to organizations like Garrett Regional Medical Center,” Rep. Trone stated. “It is especially important now, in the midst of the COVID pandemic, that rural hospitals have the resources they need to continue to provide care to their most vulnerable patients. We need to ensure that health care in Maryland’s rural areas continues to meet the needs of their communities.”
In addition to supporting the continuation of 340B, Congressman Trone has also supported continued flexibility of telehealth services for rural areas via a letter to the Secretary of Health and Human Services. He also introduced the Tele-mental Health Improvement Act, which requires the reimbursement of mental health and substance use disorder services at the same rate for both telehealth and in-person appointments.
“Congressman Trone’s recognition of the role telehealth services plays in rural healthcare is vital,” Mr. Boucot noted. “Telehealth allows rural communities to access specialty care they wouldn’t be able to access otherwise. His continued support of his rural constituents shows he understands the challenges we face.”
“It’s my job to make sure the people I represent are able to tap the federal programs that help meet their needs and make their communities better places to live,” Congressman Trone stated. “Access to healthcare is imperative, and I’m working to make sure the people of the Sixth District can get the care they need.”