Kaiser Health News’ series “No Mercy” exposes the startling increase in recent rural hospital closures. Across the country, 113 rural hospitals have closed since January 2010. These lifelines to their communities have been tossed to the wayside, victims of the high cost of providing health care. Due to these closures, many of the residents in these rural areas must travel hundreds of miles for adequate health care. These holes in our national health system put our rural communities at an increased risk of poor health due to lack of access to care when they need it the most.
There is help. Non-profit Hospitals and clinics are privy to a program that provides them access to lower-cost prescription medications called the 340B Drug Pricing Program. The 340B Drug Pricing Program is a discount on outpatient prescriptions that pharmaceutical manufacturers are required to give non-profit hospitals and clinics in exchange for the privilege of participating in the Medicaid program. The 340B Drug Pricing Program costs taxpayers nothing. 340B covered entities, the hospitals, and clinics who participate in the 340B program, then reinvest their savings into the communities they serve. For many hospitals and clinics, 340B is a lifeline that provides them with relief from the high cost of prescription medication, allowing them to keep their doors open.
Unfortunately, some in the United States Congress believe that the 340B Drug Pricing Program should be restricted. They argue that the program has grown exponentially and needs to be brought back under control when the fact is that only a few years ago Congress voted to expand the 340B program because it was working so well. Members of Congress, in the pocket of big pharma, are fighting to restrict the program to help pad the pockets of pharmaceutical shareholders.
Twenty-seven of the 113 rural hospitals that have closed in the last nine years were 340B covered entities. Many rural hospitals rely on the 340B program to continue to care for their communities, without it they would have to shut their doors forever. The changes many members of Congress are proposing would restrict the 340B program in such a way that it would cause the number of rural hospitals who will have to close to increase leaving rural communities in the lurch and families at risk.
Our rural communities are the backbone of our country, we cannot leave them behind because pharmaceutical manufacturers need to pad their pockets. Take action today.