Here and in communities across Florida, a great many people are in desperate need of medical care. Often they have limited income and no insurance, but suffer from significant health issues that required expensive, life-saving prescriptions. This reality is why Florida’s Community Health Centers never turn anyone away.
Community Health Centers (CHC) serve patients in every one of Florida’s 67 counties, serving 1.5 million patients at over 525 locations each year, with the CHC being the only source of primary medical, dental, or behavioral care in many rural and medically underserved areas. Nine of every 10 patients seen at a CHC live below 200% of the poverty line and the majority are either covered by Medicaid or have no insurance at all.
The daily struggle of uninsured Floridians trying to receive health care is compounded by the high cost of medicine facing health care providers. The higher the cost of prescriptions for Community Health Centers, the fewer funds they have available to provide patient care.
The 340B Drug Discount Program lets us stretch our scarce resources to provide prescriptions at a discount. Patients access these discounted drugs through “covered entities” (such as Community Health Centers) that serve a large number of uninsured patients. This program enables us to pass along savings to patients, expand access to care, and provide quality health care services in locations across the state.
But the 340B discount savings don’t always go back to the patients or medical facilities – as the program is designed, but are increasingly being kept by middlemen, such as pharmacy benefit managers (or PBMs). These middlemen redirect the 340B benefit away from Community Health Centers, hurting our ability to serve Floridians in need.
This legislative session, Florida lawmakers should work to redefine how PBMs are involved in the cost of prescription drugs and protect the 340B program so the funds go toward affordable, quality care for those in need, where they provide the greatest benefit to the patient.
With so many Floridians struggling with the high cost of prescription drugs, it’s the right time for our state to assure fair and affordable health care for its neediest residents.
Andrew Behrman is the president and CEO of the Florida Association of Community Health Centers.