340B Health

Faces of 340B

Chuck Beams, RPh, Director of Pharmacy Services, East Alabama Medical Center, AL

For Chuck Beams, it was one patient in particular who made him realize just how crucial the 340B program is to uninsured and underinsured patients with serious medical conditions. The patient from Auburn, Ala., required tens of thousands of dollars in infusions and other costly care for his cancer and had no idea how he was going to obtain the treatments until he heard that 340B savings would be subsidizing the costs.

Beams is the director of pharmacy services at East Alabama Medical Center, which is the only option for certain kinds of health care for hundreds of thousands of patients in the counties surrounding Opelika, Ala.. Just as the health system is a lifeline for rural residents in the area, the 340B program is a lifeline for EAMC’s ability to give those patients the specialized care they need.

The medical center has about $50 million in uncompensated care in a year, highlighting the great medical needs of people in the community who are uninsured and underinsured. An average lymphoma patient’s course of therapy can run in the neighborhood of $60,000, and the high costs of carrying certain cancer drugs means that the Opelika area doesn’t have any oncologists in private practice for residents to visit.

In addition to paying for free or heavily discounted care, 340B also allows EAMC to provide services that otherwise wouldn’t be possible. One such service embeds clinical pharmacists in emergency departments and other care transition spaces to ensure that patients moving from one setting to another have the medications they need and the knowledge on how to take them properly.

If 340B were to be rolled back significantly, Beams worries about how all of this enhanced care would be possible.