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Claims against Peters unfounded

Posted: March 2nd, 2018 | Opinion & News, Opinions | 2 Comments

By Albert Fulcher

TV ads and protesters give false claims on ending low drug pricing program

There is a claim that Scott Peters (D-52) is out to end the 340B program, a drug pricing program intended to provide qualified hospitals access to discounted pharmaceuticals for low-income communities. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) recently claimed so in a TV ad that aired in the San Diego region.

As a result, more than 200 protestors from an organization calling themselves “Let 340B” gathered at the congress member’s San Diego office on Feb. 22, asking him to withdraw his support of H. R. 4710, a federal legislation that would put a two-year moratorium on adding new hospitals, clinics and their subsidiaries in joining the 340B drug pricing program.

More than 200 protesters gather in front of Rep. Scott Peters’ office to protest his support of the “pause 340B” bill. (Facebook)

It’s important to note that Let340b.org is financed by AHF, which should raise some eyebrows across the community.

Although news of the moratorium is true, the TV ad does not explain the details of why Peters is co-sponsoring this bipartisan legislation.

Last year, the Trump administration announced that it was cutting $1.6 billion from the 340B program, which has damaging consequences to the program and the low-income people and families that it serves.

While involved hospitals and clinics get a 20-50 percent discount from pharmaceutical companies, which should support expanding access to medical care, there are currently no regulations in place to ensure that these providers are using the program as it was intended.

There are numerous calls out there to end the 340B program completely, due to claims that many hospitals are exploiting 340B. Some hospitals are padding their own profit margins by using the discounted priced drugs for patients and charging the insurance reimbursement in full, non-discounted prices.

This is nothing short of fraud.

“The 340B program is critical to provide low-income patients with access to the life-saving treatments they need,” Peters said in a press release disputing the ad’s claims. “The cuts made by the Trump administration to the 340B program need to be reversed. Going forward, we also must find ways to make sure the program is viable long-term; part of that is ensuring that hospitals who participate in the program are getting these critical, discounted drugs to the people for whom they are intended.”

H. R.  4710 (short-titled the “340B Pause Act”) does not affect any hospitals or clinics already involved with 340B, but it does allow time for Congress to place further safeguards in place to ensure that hospitals are not profiteering from accessibility to lower priced pharmaceuticals, and that those who need the discounted pricing are the people that need it the most. This would also help taxpayers who more often than not take the brunt of misguided regulations.

“Congress needs to ensure the funds are properly allocated, that there is no abuse and the program is being used as intended,” Peters added. “A temporary pause on 340B will not affect hospitals already in the program and will allow for greater data transparency, appropriate oversight and better care for patients.”

This conflicts with what AHF claims in the TV ad, and what the Let 340B protesters are claiming.

In reading one of our network contributor’s monthly column, “Congressional Watch,” author Andy Cohen had the following points to say on this subject.

In short, the bill co-sponsored by Peters does not end the 340B program. Rather, it seeks to ensure the program’s funds are being used to provide medications to low-income patients instead of padding hospital profit margins, contrary to the AHF’s assertions.

It turns out that AHF — and its founder, Michael Weinstein — derives most of its funding from clinics and pharmacies it operates that depend largely on Medicare and Medicaid insurance payments. These are the types of providers that participate in 340B.

When hospitals manipulate the program in this manner, it means there are fewer funds available for rural or underprivileged patients who could truly benefit from the program.

The point of the moratorium is to a) preserve the program as is for those already in it; and b) to give legislators time to refine the program and ensure the funds are going to those who need it most, not to bolster profits.

Opposing a member of Congress is one thing. But lying about that member’s stated positions in an effort to undermine their standing is quite another and is something we should never tolerate.

This is pomposity at its grandest level. Having a moratorium for two years may not only stop the profiteering, but in the long run it will safeguard this program for the future; especially if we face more cuts.

Every penny needs to be accounted for and every underserved person in the community deserves proper care and the medications that they need at a price they can afford. If nothing is done about the problem, it will only go away if 340B is completely dismantled. That would be an atrocity, but in the current state of this administration, not out of possibility.

— Albert Fulcher is the incoming editor of Gay San Diego. Reach him at albert@sdcnn.com.

2 Comments

  1. Eddie Rey says:

    At some point we as a community are going to have to separate our thoughts and feelings towards the leadership at AHF, and our thoughts and feelings towards the very real, life-saving services that AHF provides.

    We must also hold fire to the feet of our allies- Congressman Scott Peters included. When I received the social media invitation to the protest, I wanted to learn the reason’s why AHF was organizing the protest, but also why a democratic congressman was supporting a moratorium on a program that has helped so many.

    Finding information on AHF’s Michael Weinstien was not difficult. He is not a well liked man by many within the LGBT and HIV community. Some of what I read about him was disturbing. But I also read about the vital programs and services AHF provides around the nation and around the world.

    I also question the reasons Congressman is working with the GOP to co-sponsor on a moratorium for the 340B program.

    Programs such as 340B provide life saving and life sustaining services. There is no doubt that the program works. But like many programs, some will find ways to make it work for their gain.

    In this case- Congressman Scott Peters is also questionably making the moratorium work for his gain- by accepting large donations from the “Big Pharma.” These are the same companies that will gain massive profits from both ending or pausing the program.

    I would encourage everyone to look a little deeper and look at the ramifications that will come as a result of pausing the program.

    For starters it is important to remove ourselves from the context which is the California bubble. In communities and cities throughout California, the moratorium will have little impact. But when you consider that the South is home to 21 of the 25 metropolitan areas with the highest HIV infection rates in the nation- a different picture begins to emerge.

    The South also leads the nation for people living with HIV- who are unaware they are infected. And over half of the nations HIV/AIDS related deaths occur in the South, and half of all new infections are coming from Southern states.

    Take Jackson, located in Mississippi — the poorest state in the nation. There- over 40% of self identified gay or bisexual men are infected with HIV.

    And adding insult to injury- the Mississippi Health Department now charges for HIV testing.

    When we look at Louisiana- there is one HIV clinic per 640 miles. Think about what that would mean to those in your life who are HIV positive. By the way – 640 miles is just shy of the entire length of California.

    The picture that is painted and the facts and numbers that paint it are staggering to think about. They are also disturbing.

    There is no reason why people today- should not have access to care. But that is the reality for hundreds of communities across the south- communities that will feel the impacts of the 340B bill that Congressman Scott Peters is co-sponsoring with his GOP cronies.

    In many communities across the south – HIV clinics are just now starting to open. But it is not just the south that will be affected. In Austin, Indiana, which just recently was called ground zero for what the CDC determined was an HIV outbreak in the rural mid-west – a new HIV clinic opened and operates twice a week. In Scotts County near the Kentucky border – 71 new HIV cases were linked to injection drug use.

    We know that individuals with HIV can live healthy and normal lives when in care. We know that newly infected people who are put on medication quickly will achieve undetectable levels almost immediately. We know that they will live longer lives than those who didn’t go on medication soon after infection.

    Under Congressman Scott Peter’s 340B proposed moratorium – new clinics in the areas that need them the most will have to wait at least two years to access 340B. Individuals there will have much greater difficulty accessing the very medications and care that can be the difference between life or death.

    As a gay man, with many friends and loved ones who are living with and a few who have died- I find it vile, repulsive, and insulting that Congressman Scott Peters isn’t thinking about the lives that will be affected, and instead he is only thinking about numbers. He should be fighting to fix and expand the program – not putting the program on moratorium.

    Now don’t get me wrong- the program has its flaws, and those flaws need to be addressed. But Congressman Peters should stand up and fight for the program in light of President Trump’s threats to dismantle it. He shouldnt be co-sponsoring a bill with the GOP to pause the program, he should be leading the charge to protect vulnerable communities that depend on the access to the program.

    There is no reason why a fix should come at the expense of rural mid-west and southern communities and individuals – some who will have to drive 640 miles for medication and services.

    His support of this bill is shameful.

    Congressman Scott Peters was elected to fight for Californians, not for Big Pharma. He needs to step up and work towards expanding services and care, not limiting or restricting services by adding costly reporting or worst limiting the expansion of services where they are needed the most.

    -Eddie Reynoso
    San Diego, CA

  2. John Thurston says:

    Eddie Reynoso shame on you for joining with Gay Republicans Johnathan Hale and Carl DeMaio in their attacks on Rep. Peters.
    Oh that’s right, not only do you work for the Republican lead Hillcrest Business Association as their marketing director, but actively volunteered for the DeMaio Congressional campaign against Peters, and even posted sexually charged comments on Facebook about other volunteers at the DeMaio campaign HQ while allegations of sexual harassment of his campaign workers flooded the news.
    Yes just look at the background of anyone in the often disingenuous LGBT community in San Diego.

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