If you or a loved one has battled cancer, been uninsured or underinsured, or received a voucher for an expensive medication, a little-known drug discount program probably helped you from behind the scenes.

The 340B Drug Pricing Program created by the Federal government in 1992 allows certain hospitals — most often critical access hospitals — to obtain discounted prices on covered outpatient medications from drug manufacturers.

That means CHI St. Alexius Health-Williston can provide free or low-cost medications to patients in need. What many in the community don’t realize is that these discounts add up to a huge impact at CHI St. Alexius Health-Williston: $2.7 million in approximate annual savings which is reinvested in our programs — particularly obstetrics, oncology and emergency services.

Put simply, it’s priceless to patients in need — and in terms of our ability to care for the community. Best of all, it is 100% funded by pharmaceutical companies — not a penny comes from taxpayers.

If you value having a hospital here in Williston, it’s important to understand the role 340B plays for critical access hospitals like ours throughout the country. Of 1,300 US hospitals participating in 340B program, 93% reported that savings from the program helps them stay open, according to a report from 340Bhealth.org.

That’s the case for CHI St. Alexius Health-Williston. The 340B program helps us purchase drugs needed to treat uninsured and underinsured patients, including patients in our emergency room. The program also helped us provide $13.4 million in uncompensated care to needy patients and families last year.

With 340B, we are able to strengthen our programs. Oncology is where we see some of the greatest savings because cancer drugs are among the most expensive. Savings from 340B have contributed to the opening of our women’s health clinic and our pharmacy medication management program. It also supports the care we provide in our emergency department.

In Washington DC, officials have proposed slashing reimbursement for providers participating in 340B, which would cut Medicare payments by 30 percent and decimate many of our programs. Some argue that scaling back 340B is necessary to reduce drug costs for the government and thus taxpayers, but this is simply not true. Scaling back 340B only helps the pharmaceutical companies who currently foot the bill for 100% of the program.

Rather than being a simple issue of funding, 340B is a big-picture issue with immense local impact. It’s probably helped you or someone you care about. It’s also helped CHI St. Alexius Health-Williston meet the unique challenges faced by rural communities — and improve and expand the care we provide to the region.

Load comments