WASHINGTON, D.C.—With the Health Resources and Services Administration coming under criticism for what some call lax oversight of the 340B drug pricing program, safety net hospitals should get ready for more audits and the release of “mega-guidance” by the agency sometime this summer.

At a briefing yesterday at the American Hospital Association’s annual membership meeting in Washington, D.C., Christopher Hatwig, president of Apexus, a designated 340B prime vendor, said it is essential for hospital executives to become engaged in their organization’s 340B oversight. He advised them to identify internal and external expert resources for self-auditing and form a 340B compliance team to network with recently audited peers to better understand the process and where they may need to strengthen their own practices; and to communicate with their state Medicaid agencies.

The 340B program requires drug companies to sell discounted medications to health care providers that serve high numbers of Medicare and Medicaid patients or are located in rural areas. According to Apexus, “these safety net hospitals can use their savings on prescription drugs to cut costs for patients or to provide vital clinical and specialized services for people who cannot afford to pay for care.”

Ed Freysinger, CEO of Providence Hood River (Ore.) Memorial Hospital, a critical access hospital, said it is crucial that hospital leaders talk with their staff and “harvest” stories about how the 340B program has helped patients. Then they must share the stories with their communities and legislators.

Freysinger outlined Providence Health & Services “systemwide plan to tell our story and defend the program.” Among other things, the plan includes case studies for all 20 of the system’s 340B hospitals; a 340B summit in September to increase internal education and executive engagement; patient and caregiver trips to Washington, D.C.; hosting legislators at each of the 340B hospitals during the congressional recess; and defining and establishing 340B best practices across the system.

David Entwistle, CEO of University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics, said 340B is “mission critical” to his organization and that without it, many patients and communities would face “unsustainable access issues.”

Entwistle said 8 to 10 percent of his system’s patients receive uncompensated care and federally funded programs do not cover those costs. Without 340B, there would be “devastating consequences for our patients and communities.”