The Community Oncology Alliance (COA) applauds the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on its recent policy change to curb abuses of the 340B Drug Discount Program. This final rule is good for patients and taxpayers and represents an important first step in stopping abuse of the program by some hospitals. It will help steer the program back to its original course — acting as a safety net to help patients in need.
Under the final Medicare Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment System (OPPS) rule released today, CMS details the policy change that will adjust payment for drugs purchased through the 340B program to the average sales price (ASP) minus 22.5 percent, rather than current rate of ASP plus 6 percent. Rural sole community hospitals, PPS-exempt cancer hospitals, and children’s hospitals will be excepted from this policy for 2018, and CMS is also reducing some of the administrative burdens rural providers face.
COA strongly supports this new policy because it will reduce drug costs for seniors by an estimated $320 million on copayments for drugs in 2018 alone; help to curb outrageous abuses of the 340B program by some large hospitals; and, hopefully, start to reverse the profit incentives that have dismantled our nation’s community cancer care system.
“CMS’ policy change is a great first step in reforming 340B and reducing drug costs for seniors, but more is needed to corral this out of control program,” said Jeff Vacirca, MD president of COA and CEO of NY Cancer Specialists in Long Island, New York. “I see it firsthand in New York, and hear from colleagues across the country all the time, how patients are being taken advantage of by hospitals, not helped as the program was intended.”
For more than a decade community oncology physicians, nurses, patients, practice staff, and other stakeholders have sounded the alarm over growing problems in the 340B program. This includes the dramatic impact it has had on the closure and consolidation of our nation’s cancer care system; that the growing volume of 340B discounts are raising drug prices; and how it is hurting patients. In the last year COA has released two important pieces of research, including a look at 340B program data from 25 years of research and how abuse of the program is hurting cancer patients.
“The Administration took a huge step today towards fixing the 340B program and should be roundly commended,” said Ted Okon, executive director of COA. “Because of their leadership seniors will see lower prescription drug costs and taxpayers will save money. Now Congress has to act to legislate greater transparency and accountability from 340B hospitals so that patients benefit from this critical safety net program, not mega hospital corporations profiting from it.”
COA also applauds the step CMS is taking to bolster and strengthen the true safety net and rural providers in the 340B program. As the final policy notes, CMS is focusing on reducing some of the administrative burdens rural hospitals and clinicians face. These changes align with COA’s early recommendations that CMS use the funds saved by the 340B program change to support rural hospitals and providers.
Community oncology patients, practices, and professionals across the country are united in their strong support of efforts to end 340B abuses. It is time to fix the program so that it helps patients in need and not corporate hospital profits.