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On the Hill: 340B, Transparency Discussed at Hearings

Amid ongoing hearings on the broader fiscal year (FY) 2024 federal budget, several committees of jurisdiction last week focused on health care programs and financing issues, including transparency and the 340B Drug Pricing Program.

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce was characteristically busy. It held a Health Subcommittee hearing, “Lowering Unaffordable Costs: Examining Transparency and Competition in Health Care,” on March 28; another Health Subcommittee hearing, “Fiscal Year 2024 Department of Health and Human Services Budget,” on March 29; and an Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing, “Follow the Money: Oversight of President Biden’s Massive Spending Spree,” also on March 29.  

Notably, in the March 29 Health Subcommittee hearing, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.) traded comments about the need for 340B program reforms. Becerra stated that any attempt to reform the program must include “compliance and transparency.” The program also surfaced in Tuesday’s transparency and competition hearing, with some, such as Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), defending the program while others, including Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), arguing that it gives large health systems an unfair advantage.

The 340B program also came up during a March 30 Senate Committee on Finance hearing, “Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) and the Prescription Drug Supply Chain: Impact on Patients and Taxpayers.” The hearing focused on the role of PBMs in rising drug costs, including incentives for PBMs to favor higher-cost drugs on health plan formularies to realize higher drug company rebates while not passing on savings to customers. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) highlighted how unfair PMB practices draw profits away from 340B hospitals, undermining the program’s ability to bolster care in marginalized communities.

The House Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee held a March 29 hearing, “Addressing the Challenges of Rural America,” which highlighted challenges associated with health care access for people in rural areas. It named rural hospital closures as one of the greatest challenges these communities face. 

Other Hill Activity 

A new report released on Friday by trustees of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds summarized the financial status of the two programs. It warns of long-term financing issues and calls on lawmakers to more urgently consider budgeting options.

In the States 

Select states – Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, New Hampshire, and South Dakota – began the process of terminating their Medicaid continuous coverage requirements on April 1. The remaining states will follow suit between now and October. This will redetermine coverage for the tens of millions of people who remained covered under the low-income health insurance program during the pandemic. 

On the Schedule This Week 

Congress is out for a two-week recess. Both the House and the Senate will return on April 17.

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