340B hospitals provide far more care to low-income patients

A new survey by an advocacy group for the 340B drug program indicates that participants provide far more care to low-income patients than those hospitals that are not involved in the program.

The survey comes from the 340B Health organization. The data was compiled by Dobson DaVanzo & Associates, a District of Columbia-area healthcare consulting firm, using the 2012 Medicare cost reports and 2013 American Hospital Association facility surveys.

Hospitals that participate in the 340B program provide 41.9 percent of total patient care days to low-income Medicare beneficiaries and Medicaid enrollees, compared to less than 23 percent among hospitals that don't participate in 340B, according to the data. They also provide a higher level of uncompensated care in terms of dollars: $24.6 billion among 340B participants compared to $17.5 billion among hospitals that don't participate in the program.

"These results suggest that the 340B eligibility criteria are appropriate in that they target hospitals serving the most vulnerable patient populations," the survey concluded.

Altogether, 939 hospitals nationwide participate in the 340B program, according to the study data. That compares to 1,745 hospitals that do not participate.

"Some in the drug industry have questioned whether 340B hospitals truly serve the needy and whether they belong in the program. This report provides clear and unequivocal evidence that the answer is yes," Ted Slafsky, CEO of 340B Health, said in a statement.

The 340B program has come under fire in recent years, as reports have surfaced of hospitals reselling the drugs they receive at a steep discount to insured patients, sometimes reaping millions of dollars in profit as a result. They have also been criticized for not providing enough charity care. Supporters of the 340B program have engaged in some intense lobbying as a result to keep the program intact.

To learn more:
- read the 340B Health statement
- check out the survey (.pdf)