340B Health renews calls for CMS to scrap controversial hospital survey

Stethoscope on top of five, ten, and twenty dollar bills.
Advocacy group 340B Health is imploring the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to get rid of a survey intended to get information on hospital drug acquisition costs. (Getty Images/PLG)

Advocacy group 340B Health is renewing calls for the Trump administration to scrap a controversial survey that requires hospitals to provide cost data.

The group sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) last week calling for a retraction, because safety-net hospitals that rely on the program are fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and the survey takes a lot of time to fill out.

“Now is not the time to distract hospitals’ attention from the vital job at hand to complete a CMS survey on drug acquisition costs,” according to the letter from the group, which represents more than 1,400 hospitals and health systems.

CMS got approval from the Office of Management and Budget back on April 24 for the survey, and CMS distributed it to hospitals on that day, giving them less than three weeks to respond, 340B Health said.

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The letter is the latest salvo in a fight between CMS and hospital providers over the 340B program, which mandates pharmaceutical manufacturers provide discounts to safety-net hospitals in exchange for participation in Medicaid.

But pharmaceutical manufacturers have complained the system has grown too large, and CMS installed a nearly 30% cut to the payments. The cuts were later overthrown in court after hospitals sued to challenge them.

The survey was created in response to the court decision to overturn the payments. CMS said in 2019 when the survey was proposed that it was needed to determine the proper payment amount for each drug a hospital acquires under 340B.

But hospital groups have said the survey’s design has been flawed. The survey allowed hospitals to do a quick survey or a more in-depth option.

“Hospitals are left to choose between an option requiring significant staff resources at a time when those resources are stretched or a quick option with ambiguous language that hospitals are concerned could result in unintended representations about their drug acquisition costs,” the 340B letter said.

340B Health wants CMS to immediately retract the survey and improve the quick survey option.

CMS did not immediately return a request for comment as of press time.