WASHINGTON — A 60-word provision tucked into Nancy Pelosi’s signature drug pricing plan could wreak havoc on hospitals that serve the poor.
The provision deals with a federal drug discount program known as 340B that lets some hospitals and clinics buy medicines at a deep discount. When they’re reimbursed for the drugs at a higher price by Medicare or other insurers, they pocket the difference to help cover charity care, counseling services, and other costs.
Pelosi’s new bill — which includes a landmark proposal to let Medicare negotiate discounts on pharmaceuticals — would make it impossible to get a 340B discount for any drug that Medicare negotiates for. The provision would likely prevent hospitals from making money off of these drugs because they’d no longer be able to buy them for cheap and sell them for a profit. Instead, they’d get the same terms as any other ordinary hospital.