Bipartisan group of senators seek to block Trump cuts to drug discount program

Bipartisan group of senators seek to block Trump cuts to drug discount program
© Greg Nash

Six senators, including three Republicans, are asking GOP leadership to block a Trump administration rule that slashes funding for a federal drug discount program.

The program, called 340B, requires drug companies give discounts to health-care organizations that serve high volumes of low-income patients.

But a new rule from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which takes effect Jan. 1, cuts Medicare payments to hospitals enrolled in the program by $1.6 billion.

The senators are urging the cuts to be reversed in the year-end spending deal.

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"We recognize there are opportunities to strengthen the program through targeted clarifications and improvements to ensure it continues to fulfill its purpose with integrity and efficiency and are willing to work with stakeholders to find productive solutions in this space," the senators wrote in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget GOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — McConnell, Kaine offer bill to raise tobacco buying age to 21 | Measles outbreak spreads to 24 states | Pro-ObamaCare group launches ad blitz to protect Dems MORE (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer wants investigation into Chinese-designed New York subway cars Getting serious about infrastructure Schumer calls on McConnell to hold vote on Equality Act MORE (D-N.Y.). 

"However, with a January 1, 2018 start date and over half of the Senate and half of the House of Representatives having expressed concerns with CMS' rule, we request your help in ensuring the long-term sustainability of the 340B program by preventing these changes in an end of the year package."

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The request follows a letter 51 senators sent to CMS earlier this year expressing concerns over the changes.

Hospital groups argue the rule would jeopardize the ability to serve low-income patients.

The American Hospital Association, America's Essential Hospitals and the Association of American Medical Colleges are suing the administration to block the rule.

CMS has argued that the changes will increase access to care and lower out-of-pocket drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries.