Court sets speedy 340B lawsuit schedule, siding with AHA
- The American Hospital Association and other parties' request for an expedited brief schedule for the group's lawsuit over CMS cuts to the 340B program was agreed to by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Tuesday, despite the government's request for more time to respond to the lawsuit.
- U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras dismissed the initial lawsuit in December, saying the groups did not have standing to sue because the cuts hadn't yet taken effect. On January 11, AHA and the other groups appealed the decision, and then asked the court to expedite the case citing the immediate impact the cuts have on 340B hospitals' ability to provide services to underserved communities.
- Attorneys for the Department of Justice argued the compressed briefing schedule would not give adequate time for the government to prepare its brief and coordinate with affected agencies.
The lawsuit concerns a HHS final rule that took effect at the start of the year changing the amount 340B hospitals are paid for drugs to 22.5% less than the average sales price. Last year, hospitals paid the average price plus 6%.
“America’s hospitals and health systems are pleased that the U.S. Court of Appeals has accepted our expedited brief schedule in our appeal to reverse the significant cuts to the 340B Drug Savings Program, which for over 25 years has played a vital role in helping hospitals stretch scarce federal resources to expand and enhance patient services and access to care for vulnerable communities without any cost to the government," Melinda Hatton, general counsel for the American Hospital Association, told Healthcare Dive.
AHA is joined in the lawsuit by America’s Essential Hospitals, the Association of American Medical Colleges, Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems (Brewer, Maine), Henry Ford Health System (Detroit) and Adventist Health System’s Park Ridge Health (Henderson, North Carolina).
The groups argue the cuts will hurt 340B hospitals' budgeted operations, bond covenants and other items necessary to provide community care, and say the reimbursement change exceeds HHS' authority.
"For 340B hospitals, the ability to provide care to their communities is tied to receipt of third-party reimbursements; constriction in the flow of Medicare revenues to 340B hospitals will increasingly constrict funds for medical care for all their patients, most particularly those who are poor and underserved and most reliant on these services," the groups wrote in their request to expiate the appeal brief schedule.
AHA noted that it is actively exploring other options to address the cuts.
"We will continue to pursue our legislative and legal strategies to reverse these cuts, and expect to prevail in holding the agency accountable for overstepping its authority," Hatton said.
The Court of Appeals set the the brief schedule to conclude by April 2, appearing to allow AHA's request that oral arguments to occur by May, prior to the summer recess. "Otherwise the next opportunity for argument would be in September, which would likely significantly delay the resolution of this action," the plaintiff attorneys had argued.
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