Soapbox

Drug discount program isn’t disposable

Betty McGaughey talks about health care insurance in the Community Regional Medical Center ER in Fresno.
Betty McGaughey talks about health care insurance in the Community Regional Medical Center ER in Fresno. The Fresno Bee

For the past couple of years, we’ve been deflecting a lot of threats to our health care system from the federal level. As CEO of Sacramento Native American Health Center, a nonprofit providing care to more than 26,000 patients, I am painfully aware of how much is at stake.

But now we are facing another threat – this time from within our own state. Gov. Jerry Brown’s revised 2018-19 budget would eliminate the 340B Drug Discount Program from Medi-Cal.

 
Opinion

Wednesday, supporters of the program will be lobbying at the state Capitol to stop a decision that could have lasting negative impacts on the most fragile members of our community.

Britta Guerrero
Britta Guerrero

Created by Congress in 1992, the 340B program requires drug manufacturers to provide outpatient drugs to eligible providers at significantly reduced prices to help stretch federal dollars for patients who depend on Medicaid and Medi-Cal for health coverage.

Our center has been participating in the 340B program since 2012, offering pharmaceuticals to patients at an in-house pharmacy and contracted private pharmacies. We use the savings to employ nurses, case managers and referral coordinators. We also provide transportation, housing assistance, translation services and help enrolling in CalFresh and Women, Infants and Children – all critical to low-income patients with complex needs.

The Brown administration argues that more money could be brought to the state general fund if 340B were eliminated. We disagree; 100 percent of these dollars go directly back into the health care system. If this program was reallocated to the general fund, would that still be the case?

Yes, Medi-Cal is a state program, but it’s a collaborative effort. It requires the state, health care plans, providers and numerous others organizations to ensure Medi-Cal patients receive high-quality health care.

If Brown’s proposal is approved by the Legislature, it would reduce our workforce and eliminate necessary supportive services. It may also lead to closing our in-house pharmacy, disrupting access for all our patients, and raising costs for many since we provide free or low-cost medication to the uninsured.

Sacramento Native American Health Center is one of more than 1,300 community health centers throughout California helping to provide care for more than 6.5 million patients, most at or below the poverty line.

Many of these health centers also rely on the 340B program. This proposal will have a direct and immediate impact on access and services to low-income communities. The Legislature should oppose it.

Britta Guerrero is CEO of the Sacramento Native American Health Center. She can be contacted at Britta.Guerrero@snahc.org.

  Comments