To The Editor: 

While not yet in the limelight of healthcare discussions, and totally unknown to most people, the federal 340B drug discount program affects many vulnerable patients in Southwestern Illinois. Created in 1992 to help vulnerable or uninsured patients afford valuable medications by providing certain hospitals and safety net clinics with discounted medicine, the 340B program is no longer functioning as intended.

As intended, the 340B drug discount program should create better health outcomes for needy and vulnerable patients by subsidizing the cost of medicines for the entities providing care to these populations.

Recent evidence, however, shows that the program isn’t working.

Several studies show that hospitals’ community charity care rate has decreased in recent years while hospitals’ revenue has increased. A recent article showed that the nation’s top seven ranked hospitals’ charity care fell by 35 percent between 2013 and 2015 while the hospitals’ revenues increased by $4.5 billion, with more than half of those hospitals operating as 340B facilities. An analysis by Avalere Health that looked specifically at 340B entities found that 64 percent of 340B hospitals have charity care rates below the national average for all hospitals.

It’s time to get the 340B program back on track. To truly help our country’s neediest patients, we need to root out abuses within the 340B program and work with Congress and the Administration to modernize this program and make it sustainable in the long run.

Let’s nurse this program back to its original mission of helping the neediest patients – our neighbors -- access the care they need.

Kerry Smith

Entrepreneur, Founder and Former Co-Owner of the Illinois Business Journal, Edwardsville Resident

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