Recent Press Releases

Washington, D.C. —  Senator John Thune today joined Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) in re-introducing the 340B Program Improvement and Integrity Act (S. 1239), a bill that would help safety net hospitals struggling to afford pharmaceuticals for their patients.

"Higher prescription drug costs in recent years have hurt all consumers," said Thune. "But the impact of high drug costs doesn't just hurt consumers at the pharmacy counter; it also burdens hospitals across the country that are struggling to provide affordable prescription drugs to the poor and uninsured. Rural hospitals in South Dakota serve as a lifeline to thousands of residents living in medically underserved areas - and the rising cost of drugs continues to squeeze their budgets.

"As Congress considers health care reform this year, I will work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to advance common-sense, bipartisan legislation like this bill."

Dr. Charles Hart, Chief Executive Officer of Regional Health, Rapid City, emphasized the importance of this legislation:

"The expansion of the 340B pharmacy discounts to the inpatient arena can play a critical role in assuring the survival and quality of those health care organizations most in need during these difficult times," said Dr. Hart. "These health care safety net organizations are the only access to services in many rural and urban areas. Passage of this legislation will specifically allow our organizations to continue many services for our most needy populations."

The 340B Program Improvement and Integrity Act would extend discounted drug prices, currently available only for outpatient drugs, to inpatient drug purchases by qualified hospitals. It would also enable other rural hospitals to participate in the 340B program that, for a variety of reasons, cannot currently access the discounts. Rural hospitals, such as critical access hospitals and certain sole community hospitals and rural referral centers, would be greatly assisted by this legislation as they tend to serve a high percentage of low-income patients.

    Background on the 340B Program Improvement and Integrity Act:
  • In 1992, Congress created a program to lower the cost of drugs purchased by a limited number of entities serving a high number of low-income and uninsured individuals.
  • Under this program, pharmaceutical manufacturers are currently required to provide eligible group discounts on outpatient drugs as part of each manufacturer's Medicaid participation agreement.
  • The 340B Program Improvement and Integrity Act extends the discounted drug prices to inpatient drug purchases of qualifying hospitals, as well as the inpatient and outpatient drug purchases of critical access hospitals and certain sole community hospitals and rural referral centers.
  • Critical access hospitals are a vital part of the rural health care delivery system. They provide emergency, outpatient, and limited inpatient care to individuals in remote rural areas.
    • Out of the approximately 60 hospitals in South Dakota, 38 are critical access hospitals.
  • This legislation also generates savings for the Medicaid program by requiring hospitals that participate in the program to rebate Medicaid a percentage of their savings on inpatient drugs administered to Medicaid patients.
  • The bill also enhances the overall efficiency of the 340B program through improved enforcement and compliance measures with respect to manufacturers and covered entities.