LETTERS: Congress should act on Colorado hospitals taking advantage of systems to serve low-income patients

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Editor: Corporate greed can harm all aspects of our country if we don’t keep a close eye on it. Massive companies are always looking for new ways to push their agenda in Congress and take advantage of our bloated federal government.

Even in healthcare, an extremely vital service to everyday people, greedy hospital corporations have found ways to manipulate the system to take more than their fair share. It has come to my attention that these massive hospitals are actively taking advantage of the 340B Drug Pricing Program, a program designed by the federal government to assist hospitals that provide charity care to low-income and uninsured patients. 340B was only supposed to provide discounts on prescription drugs to a small group of charity care hospitals, but it’s gotten way out of hand.
The problem with the 340B program is its vague eligibility criteria and lack of explicit definitions of how savings should be used. Hospitals saw these loopholes and did whatever they could to qualify themselves as sham “nonprofit” hospitals. They began greedily buying up community care centers that were not originally 340B eligible and converted them into offsite hospital outpatient departments. This allowed them to sneakily qualify as 340B eligible under the program’s vague criteria, and the 340B program went from covering 90 charity care hospitals to more than 2,000, with very few actually using the savings for charity care.
In 2017, the Pacific Research Institute’s (PRI) Center for Medical Economics and Innovation studied exactly how much damage had been done by the alarming growth of the 340B program. PRI compared 340B hospitals to non-340B hospitals across 8 different states and found that not only do “non-profit” 340B hospitals make 37% more in profits compared to the average of all hospitals, but these 340B hospitals that are supposed to provide charity care give 22% less of their net patient revenue to charity care than all hospitals.
Among the hospitals PRI studied, four were in our home state of Colorado: Parkview Medical Center, Saint Joseph Hospital, Valley View Hospital, Yampa Valley Medical Center. All entities generated hundreds of millions or billions in revenue and paid their executives huge salaries but spent shockingly low amounts on actual charity care. Parkview Medical Center raked in over $17 million in annual profit and paid top executive, Michael Baxter, close to $760,000 in FY 2019 but spent only 0.57 percent of their net patient revenue on charity care. Saint Joseph Hospital made over $48 million in profit in FY 2019 and paid their top executive, Lydia Jumonville, over $2.1 million yet spent only 1.52 percent of their net patient revenue on charity care.
Valley View Hospital raked in over $27 million in annual profit and paid top executive, Gary Brewer, over $1.1 million in FY 2019 but spent only 1.05 percent of their net patient revenue on charity care. Yampa Valley Medical Center made over $11.9 million in profit in FY 2020 and paid their top executive, Frank May, over $444,500, yet spent only 0.21 percent of their net patient revenue on charity care. It’s despicable that rich hospital corporations can take advantage of poorly run federal programs and line their pockets with the savings instead of using them to help needy patients.
340B’s unchecked rapid growth has gone on for far too long. We must downsize this program and make sure that discounts are going only to hospitals that provide real charity care, not sham nonprofit hospitals looking to take advantage of big government bureaucracy. For the sake of our low-income and uninsured patients, Congress needs to swiftly reform the 340B program and close any loopholes.
Vickie Wilhite, via [email protected]
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