April 28, 2016
April 28, 2016
Many government programs are intended to help Americans in need, but some of them are more effective at it than others. In other cases, programs start out with the right objectives in mind but then drift off course due to mismanagement or poor oversight.
One of those programs that is drifting off course is the Federal discount program that some hospitals use to purchase prescription drugs. It’s called 340B, and it was started almost a quarter-century ago as a program to help indigent patients get better access to needed prescriptions. Since that time, the program has expanded well beyond its original targets, and that has diluted the program’s effectiveness at helping the poor.
A full five years ago, the GAO highlighted the need for the Department of Health and Human Services to “strengthen oversight regarding program participation and compliance” within the 340B program. That need for greater accountability and transparency has only grown since that GAO report as the program has expanded.
It is clear that the program needs more oversight: The Department of Health and Human Services has published just 14 audits from the last fiscal year, and five of those audits revealed misuse or abuse of the system — a 35% rate. No private-sector business would tolerate a situation in which 35% of their employees were caught cheating or misusing company funds.
If we really want the 340B program to help the needy, then the program should be designed and overseen to accomplish that goal specifically. As it stands today, eligibility for the 340B program is not targeting indigent patients as effectively as it should — and that in turn means that some hospitals and other facilities are taking a program that is intended to help the poor and using it to gain an unfair advantage over their competitors. This abuse of the program raises costs for everyone else.
To truly help the needy, hospitals and clinics should be good stewards of programs meant for the welfare of their patients. The government can and should enhance that stewardship with oversight that ensures accountability and transparency.
David Darnell is President of the Willamette Valley Mining Association and the Vice-Chair of Oregon Congressional District #5 Republican Party.