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Drug Discount Program Helps Hospital Care for Patients

By Staff | May 1, 2015

Heart of America Medical Center of Rugby’s mission is to take care of whomever walks through our doors. Whether critically ill, poor or in decent health, it doesn’t matter: we help all of our patients get the care and medicine they need to get better and remain healthy.

We treat everyone, including our nation’s most vulnerable patients. These are the men, women and children who would otherwise not be able to afford health care when they need it most.

Providing excellent care to the poor is a tall order, but a little-known federal program lends a helping hand. Established in 1992, the “340B” program requires pharmaceutical companies to give discounts on drugs to hospitals like ours that treat high numbers of under-privileged patients.

Because the program is funded entirely by the discounts hospitals like ours receive from drug companies, it doesn’t cost taxpayers a cent. In fact, the program helps taxpayers save money by helping hospitals keep their patients healthy and out of the emergency room.

In the two-plus years we have been involved in this program, we have been able to put the savings we receive from the discounts to good work. We have hired an additional pharmacist and pharmacy staff, thereby increasing our one-on-one interaction with patients – which evidence indicates reduces hospital readmissions. In addition, the 340B program allows the hospital to support other necessary services that are essential to the community. Ambulance services and a diabetic educator are two examples of such services. With the continued benefits we see from the 340B program, we hope to expand these programs as well as adding other preventative care services.

Unfortunately, some in the pharmaceutical industry want to change or eliminate the 340B drug discount program, even though it represents just two percent of U.S. drug revenues, which amounted to a whopping $329 billion in 2013, according to an April 2014 report by IMS Health.

Roughly 65-70 percent of the patients we see at Heart of America Medical Center are covered by Medicare, Medicaid, or are uninsured. At our hospital alone, uncompensated care totaled nearly $1 million in 2014. Our total revenue for the same period was between 24-25 million dollars.

We appreciate that our representatives in Congress understand our need to provide a strong safety net for people in our region. We are happy to do it. Without this program, though, Rugby and Pierce County could lose both important jobs and critical services, and our efforts to serve all of our patients with the best care possible would be compromised. Help us help you by letting your Congressman and Senators know that this is an important program and we need their help to keep it going.

Jeff Lingerfelt is the Chief Executive Officer at Heart of America Medical Center. Erik Christenson is the Director of Pharmacy at Heart of America Medical Center.

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