Last week we told you about a proposal floating around the N.C. General Assembly that would have raised drug prices while enriching billion-dollar hospital systems and national pharmacies.

It was bad news for consumers.

This week, we can share some good news.

Our legislative leaders – namely Senator Jim Perry – brought all the stakeholders together and hammered out a solution that will truly help people across our state.

The legislation has to do with the little-known federal “340b” program. Congress designed it in the early 1990s to help poor, uninsured individuals afford medicine and healthcare.

In recent years, however, the program has been abused as hospitals and national pharmacies have pocketed tens of billions of dollars intended to benefit low-income families.

On the other hand, many entities were using the program as it was envisioned.

For example, many critical access hospitals and community health centers regularly reinvest money saved through the 340b program to help people get more affordable healthcare.

A legislative balance needed to be struck that would protect those who were using the money the right way, while also making sure 340b tax dollars weren’t padding the bottom lines of billion-dollar health systems.

Thanks to Senator Perry, and many committed stakeholders, that balance was struck.  

The new proposal, which passed the Senate Commerce and Insurance Committee with large bipartisan support, will ensure critical access hospitals and community health centers can continue using their 340b revenue to offer lower cost care.

It also ensures that employers and insurers can negotiate lower costs for 340b drugs with big hospitals and pharmacies – providing an important check on their reported profiteering and ensuring the savings go where they’re intended: the consumer.  

It doesn’t happen nearly enough, but because of the Senators’ hard work and commitment to getting it right, today was a very good day for consumer healthcare on Jones Street.

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