loophole, lack of transparency allows color communities in California to be used as part of the federal drug program
While the COVID-19 pandemic has created significant new challenges to public health, it has also uncovered and aggravated many of the challenges that have long plagued our communities. Health disparities and unequal access to health care affected marginalized and vulnerable communities in Los Angeles long before COVID-19 began.
Unfortunately, some unscrupulous participants can make matters worse by using a federal health program with little transparency or oversight and increasing their profits at the expense of California’s colored communities.
Congress established the 340B Drug Pricing Program in 1992 with a noble goal: to make prescription drugs more affordable and accessible to low-income and uninsured patients. The program requires prescription drug manufacturers to provide discounts on their drugs to hospitals that serve a significant percentage of vulnerable patients.
Unfortunately, the program has expanded in ways that Congress never planned, and there is little evidence that vulnerable communities see the benefits. This is because hospitals are increasingly contracting with for-profit pharmacies and other intermediaries, many of which are collecting 340B savings while patients in California are still paying the full price.
Nationwide, California has nearly 6,200 pharmacies participating in the 340B program. No one is required to share with patients the 340B discounts they receive.
The 340B program does not improve access to health care for colored communities, as participating pharmacies are often not located where these communities live. Areas with limited or no access to pharmacies – often referred to as “pharmacy deserts” – are found mainly in blacks and Latin American neighborhoods. Moreover, only 1 in 4 pharmacies in the Black and Latino neighborhoods participated in the 340B program in 2015.
As pastor and president of the Baptist Conference in Los Angeles and Southern California, I am in charge of the spiritual health of my congregation. But spiritual health is inextricably linked to mental and physical health – mind, body and soul. When programs – such as the 340B program – that are designed to help vulnerable communities and colored communities fail, those same communities take the burden.
I have witnessed first-hand the impact of decades of health disparities – the legacy of racism and institutionalized discrimination – on the physical health of our people. According to US Minority Health ServiceBlacks have a lower life expectancy, are more likely to live below or below the poverty line, and are more likely to be uninsured than their whites. Mortality in blacks is usually higher than in Echites for heart disease, stroke, cancer, asthma, influenza and pneumonia, diabetes, HIV / AIDS and homicide.
California politicians need to take steps to ensure that vulnerable communities in California see the benefits of the 340B drug pricing program – that these communities, not large-box pharmacies, are saving money on their drugs. Currently, the lack of transparency hinders meaningful accountability in the 340B program.
The California legislature is considering changes to the 340B program in the form of Senate Bill 939. Unfortunately, this proposed bill does nothing to improve the transparency or accountability of 340B contract pharmacies. If nothing else, it enshrines in law the non-transparent business practices that allow pharmacies to make money, while many patients continue to pay the full price for their medicines.
No California family has to pay unnecessarily high costs for their medical care. The sense of addressing existing disparities in health care requires programs designed to help vulnerable communities to function as intended – to protect patients, not pharmacies. Introducing more transparency in the 340B medicines program would be a good first step.
The Reverend KW Tulloss is President of the Conference of Baptist Ministers (BMC) in Los Angeles and Southern California.
Loophole, Lack of Transparency Allows California Communities of Color to be Exploited as Part of Federal Drug Program – Los Angeles Sentinel | Los Angeles Sentinel Source link Loophole, Lack of Transparency Allows California Communities of Color to be Exploited as Part of Federal Drug Program – Los Angeles Sentinel | Los Angeles Sentinel