Legislation Could Help Reduce Prescription Drug Costs

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"Sicko," the recent documentary on the U.S. health care system directedby filmmaker Michael Moore, highlights the need to "address thechallenges of improving access to pharmaceutical care," Ted Slafsky,executive director of Safety Net Hospitals for Pharmaceutical Access, writes in an opinion piece in The Hill.According to Slafsky, the "burden of providing pharmaceutical care tovulnerable patients falls increasingly on our nation's hospitals,clinics and health centers, particularly those with a charitable caremission" as prescription drug costs continue to increase and the numberof uninsured U.S. residents nears 47 million.

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He cites the needto pass legislation sponsored by Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and JohnThune (R-S.D.) and Reps. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) andJo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.) that would extend 340B, a program operated by the Public Health Servicethat provides prescription drug discounts to hospitals that serve alarge number of low-income and uninsured patients. The discountscurrently "only apply to drugs used on an outpatient basis due to theway the 340B law was written in 1992," and hospitals must pay anaverage of 25% more for "drugs given to patients that are admitted intotheir facility for an overnight stay," Slafsky writes. He adds that thelegislation would "extend federal drug discounts to the inpatientsetting for these charitable hospitals" and would "create savings for... Medicaid" through a provision to require the hospitals to "sharethe savings" with the program.

The legislation "certainly wouldnot solve our health care woes," but "it would go a long way towardensuring that safety net hospitals in this country can continue theirmission of providing care to all patients regardless of their abilityto pay," Slafsky concludes (Slafsky, The Hill, 9/11).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, afree service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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