WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin joined a bipartisan group of Senators to reintroduce legislation that would provide certainty to Wisconsin hospitals participating in the 340B drug discount program during the COVID-19 public health emergency.
“Our hospitals, health care workers, and the patients they serve need certainty during this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and we must work together to limit disruptions to our health care system,” said Senator Baldwin. “The 340B program has served Wisconsin well by helping to lower drug prices for hospitals and health clinics serving vulnerable communities that would otherwise not be able to afford prescription drugs. This bipartisan legislation has the support of leading Wisconsin hospitals and it has my support as well because it ensures that hospitals currently eligible for the 340B program have the certainty of being able to maintain eligibility throughout this pandemic. Let’s get this done so hospitals can continue providing lower cost health care services to those in need.”
The COVID-19 public health emergency resulted in many hospitals experiencing a reduction in inpatient hospital admissions of low-income Medicare and Medicaid patients, a critical metric in determining eligibility for the 340B program. Though hospitals have started resuming elective procedures, and patients have begun returning to seek care, there is concern that as a result of the pandemic slowdown, some hospitals may not meet the required inpatient admission threshold to remain in the program for the following year. The legislation, reintroduced by Baldwin and Senators John Thune (R-SD), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Rob Portman (R-OH), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Ben Cardin (D-MD), would ensure that any previously participating hospital will be deemed eligible for any cost reporting period during which the public health emergency occurred.
Senator Baldwin’s support for the bipartisan legislation earned praise from Wisconsin health care leaders.
“We applaud Senator Baldwin, and Senators Thune, Stabenow, Portman, Capito and Cardin for introducing this important bipartisan legislation to protect 340B hospitals. During this public health emergency, safety net hospitals have led the response to COVID-19. Our hospitals and caregivers continue to provide access to COVID-19 testing and treatment in addition to emergency and preventive care. This important legislation supports sustained eligibility for the 340B program for safety net hospitals during a time of uncertainty, supporting our ability to continue to provide access to care and much needed medications for the most vulnerable. We strongly support this legislation and sincerely thank Senator Baldwin for her continued leadership on this issue,” said Bernie Sherry, Ascension Wisconsin Ministry Market Executive.
“Senator Baldwin’s legislation creates common-sense flexibility as healthcare providers across Wisconsin, and the nation, care for our patients and our communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The 340B program is an important tool to provide resources to support the delivery of high-quality care as close to home as possible. Senator Baldwin’s proposal will provide certainty to healthcare providers across the state, and support patients at a time when they need it the most,” said Dr. Susan Turney, CEO of Marshfield Clinic Health System.
“Given the extreme impact of COVID-19 on rural hospitals, we need a strong 340-B program more than ever,” said Tim Size, Executive Director of Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative in Sauk City, Wisconsin.
“This bill would help remove uncertainty regarding 340B hospital qualification and allow us to focus on providing exceptional care to vulnerable and rural patients as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. The flexibility to remain in the program during these uncertain times while still maintaining the spirit of the program is something that would be very beneficial to many safety-net and rural providers across the country, including SSM Health. The disruption of our ministry from COVID-19 will be with us for some time. We urge passage of this bill to ensure our ability to provide exceptional care to all our patients,” said Karen Rewerts, System Vice President of SSM Health.
“The 340B prescription drug discount program helps hospitals stretch scarce federal resources, better enabling them to fulfill their missions of providing life-saving care to their communities. Given the immense challenges COVID has created for hospitals and health systems, more than ever our members are now looking for certainty that important federal programs like 340B will not go away. This legislation will give hospitals one less thing to worry about as they continue to fight an unprecedented pandemic by ensuring fluctuations in patient mixes caused by COVID will not threaten their 340B savings. WHA greatly appreciates Senator Baldwin’s leadership on this important issue,” said Eric Borgerding, President and CEO of the Wisconsin Hospital Association.