Rural Hospital Participation in the 340B Drug Discount Program

Project funded:
September 2005
Project completed:
August 2007

The 340B drug pricing program enables certain types of safety net organizations to obtain deeply discounted medications, at prices below the "best price" typically offered to Medicaid agencies. In the past, few rural hospitals qualified for the 340B program, but the 2003 Medicare Modernization Act has revised eligibility criteria, thereby allowing many rural hospitals to participate. This study relied on two surveys - one of pharmacy directors at rural hospitals currently buying discounted outpatient drugs through the 340B program and the other of pharmacy directors at rural hospitals eligible but not yet participating in the program. The purpose of this study was to understand the perspectives of pharmacy directors at participating and nonparticipating hospitals to understand their reasons for participation or non-participations, the challenges faced,, the financial impact of the program, and which specific program features present barriers to its broader implementation.

Despite widespread efforts at dissemination about the program, over half of the responding pharmacy directors at non-participating hospitals (56%) were not aware their hospitals were eligible to participate in the program. While comprehensive information on the 340B Drug Pricing Program is available from federal agencies, most notably the Office of Pharmacy Affairs, which administers the program, respondents relied instead on peers from other hospitals or staff within their own hospital to learn more about the program. Based on the level of outstanding technical assistance needs, eligible rural hospitals do not seem to acquire all of the information they need to understand, evaluate, and implement the program.

The proportion of eligible hospitals participating in the 340B program appears to rise with revenue, from 28 percent of hospitals with less than $50 million participating in the program, to 61 percent of hospitals with over $100 million in annual revenue. The distribution of eligible rural hospitals is also quite skewed geographically, with a disproportionate share in the South. The average monthly savings for rural participating hospitals is approximately $19,700 on total outpatient drugs; some hospitals reported saving an average of 24 percent of the pharmacy budget. About 96 percent of all respondents stated that they were satisfied with the discount they received. Study results will be presented in the form of two working papers.


Publications

  • 340B Drug Pricing Program: Results of a Survey of Eligible but Non-Participating Rural Hospitals
    NORC Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis, North Carolina Rural Health Research and Policy Analysis Center
    Date: 01/2007
    This paper summarizes the results of a 2006 survey of pharmacy directors at rural hospitals that are eligible but currently not participating in the 340B Drug Pricing Program, which enables certain types of safety-net organizations to obtain discounted outpatient medications.
  • 340B Drug Pricing Program: Results of a Survey of Participating Hospitals
    NORC Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis, North Carolina Rural Health Research and Policy Analysis Center
    Date: 05/2007
    This report presents survey results of pharmacy directors at rural hospitals buying discounted outpatient drugs through the 340B program. The purpose was to understand the perspectives of pharmacy directors on the 340B program, the program's financial impact, and which program features presented barriers to its broader implementation.
  • Rural Hospitals' Experience with the 340B Drug Pricing Program
    Policy Brief
    NORC Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis, North Carolina Rural Health Research and Policy Analysis Center
    Date: 09/2007
    This policy brief describes the results of surveys of rural hospitals participating in the 340B drug-pricing program and of rural eligible but non-participating hospitals. It includes information on factors affecting participation in the program and the benefits and challenges of participation.