RICHMOND, Va. — Senator Tim Kaine (D - Virginia) said the federal program at the center of a New York Times investigation featuring Richmond Community Hospital is "an absolutely critical program," and "the thought that somebody might be using this program as a profit center as opposed to really helping people was very troubling."
The program is the 340B Drug Pricing Program, which allows certain hospitals to purchase drugs at a large discount, and then use the savings to provide services to low-income and uninsured patients.
"Free clinics, community health centers, many hospitals who provide care to the poor and folks who really need health care, they rely on this program to bring down the cost of prescription drugs for the most-needy communities in Virginia and throughout the country," Kaine said.
It has existed since 1992 and Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger (D - Virginia) co-authored a letter to the Health and Human Services Secretary in January of this year expressing her support for the program, and urging faster enforcement action against drug companies that overcharged 340B hospitals.
But, the New York Times investigation, which alleges Bon Secours is failing to use the savings to help underserved populations, is putting new scrutiny on the program.
"I'm just worried the story is going to cause a lot of people to have really serious questions about a program that our safety net providers need, so Bon Secours needs to have an answer, and we are going to dig into it from the health committee standpoint," Kaine said.
The CBS 6 Problem Solvers asked a number of our federal lawmakers for their reaction to the investigation.
Spanberger's office sent the following statement:
"For decades, the 340B Drug Discount Program has provided important benefits to rural and safety-net hospitals in Virginia — and it’s critical for lowering drug costs for Virginians living in rural and underserved areas who are served by community health centers and rural hospitals. The program costs the American taxpayer $0. Rep. Spanberger is deeply troubled by reports that Bon Secours Mercy Health System has not lived up to its commitment to the City of Richmond, the federal government, and the communities Richmond Community Hospital serves. She will always support additional oversight of federal programs and tax benefits to ensure not-for-profits are meeting commitments to the communities they serve.”
Congressman Donald McEachin's office said:
"Congressman McEachin is concerned about the reports on Bon Secours. He is currently looking into various avenues of federal oversight or legislative action."
Senator Mark Warner's Office said:
“When Congress authored Section 340B of the Public Health Service Act, it sought to lower financial barriers for community hospitals so that they could better serve vulnerable populations in need of high-quality medical care. It is disheartening to see hospitals and health systems reaping the benefits of this law while letting down the communities they’re supposed to serve. While there’s no quick fix to this problem, I welcome increased scrutiny and believe Congress must act to ensure that the integrity of this program is upheld.”