July 20, 2010 - Rural hospitals that became eligible for 340B drug discounts under health care reform will finally be allowed to begin enrolling in the program starting Aug. 2.
Dr. Mary Wakefield, administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), made the announcement yesterday to a round of applause during the 340B Coalition annual conference in Washington. Critical access hospitals, sole community hospitals and rural referral centers had been waiting since the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) passage on March 23 to find out when they could officially join the program. The reform law, Wakefield said, will potentially allow thousands of rural hospital sites to participate in 340B. Eleven free-standing cancer hospitals were also made eligible for 340B but only one is expected to meet the program's 11.75 percent disproportionate-share threshold.
"I'm really happy to announce here today that we now have funding to implement" enrollment, Wakefield said. The Office of Pharmacy Affairs (OPA) had been delaying the start of enrollment pending an infusion of new funds to carry out the job. Wakefield did not specify the source or amount of the new funds.
In her first public remarks as OPA's new director, Public Health Service Cmdr. Krista Pedley also announced that her office has tentatively scheduled a webinar on Wednesday July 28 for the new covered entities on enrollment specifics. For the first time, entities will be allowed to enroll online, she said, and likely will be admitted on a rolling basis "so they can begin taking advantage of these opportunities very quickly."
"We will do everything we can to ensure that these new entity types have what they need to make the right decisions as they come into the program," Pedley said. She advised stakeholders to check the OPA Web site often for any changes to the webinar date and for related news on 340B reform implementation.