August 3, 2023 / By

Community Health Series Part 2: Conference Confusion

Community Health Series Part 2: Conference Confusion

By Robert Aanonsen, VP Business Development

Immediately following the 2023 340B Summer Coalition Conference in Washington DC, articles were published indicating frustration that no new legislation or legal actions have been initiated on behalf of covered entities.  It is understood that the summer conference will have a greater focus on governmental updates, legal actions and direct communication from HRSA representatives.  Each year, we look for clarity and the release of new information to shed light on the efforts to protect the 340B Drug Discount Program and leave disappointed.

On a positive note, the leadership at several 340B advocate agencies have provided such timely updates through online media, that the conference feels more like a review.  So, may I ask, what is the purpose of these conferences?  If I were to ask 10 groups, I’m certain I would get 10 different answers.  In my years of attending 340B conferences, it is those first-time attendees striving to learn all about the 340B program in three days.  Attending the Apexus 340B University, taking every piece of literature from vendors to understand their role in the process and taking notes from every presentation.  You see, these individuals have been sent from their health center to be educated, network, and provide insightful feedback on how the health center would maintain compliance and methodologies to generate additional savings.  Yet, this did not happen without an investment.

To better understand the complex “gray areas” of the 340B program, those sessions from actual covered entities in the field are greatly beneficial.  That is why thousands of dollars are spent on registration, training sessions, airfare, hotel accommodations and meals for one individual.  Those are discounted prices provided by the vendor and sponsor support.  To assist with compliance oversight knowledge, the conference can be justified.

Other attendees to the conferences are the vendors, sponsors and exhibitors.  These organizations will spend anywhere between $50K and $500K for their presence at the conference.  The focus is upon networking, prospecting and team engagement.  From entering the exhibit hall for the first time, one may be shocked at the display.  Personally, I am amazed every year at the intensity and extravagance.  There is a purpose.  The 340B Drug Discount Program holds tremendous financial savings.  Must we continue to recite what the purpose and intent of the 340B program?  “Enables covered entities to stretch scarce federal resources as far as possible, reaching more eligible patients and providing more comprehensive services.”  The intent is to help not-for-profit covered entities provide medical care and necessary medications for our countries most vulnerable.  There is a phrase within the intent that speaks volumes: “as far as possible.”  If I may be able to restate, this would indicate providing as much as possible to the covered entities to care for their patients.  Why then spend such an exurbanite amount of money on conferences?  Because the administration fees, switch fees, percentages of growth, rebates, consultation fees and more will be returned in the billions.

One more area of consideration.  If you have ever hosted a party, you know there are expenses that must be considered.  The same is true for putting together a national conference.  In addition to the conferences, helpful information, grassroot efforts and networking platforms are established by these organizations.  To employ, organize and market these events has expenses and cannot be accomplished without the vendors, sponsors and exhibitors.  Yet with revenue tipping the scales at $9.6M for a non-profit, they are able to easily cover their expenses.

Stakeholders within the 340B Drug Discount Program have provided significant value to assist with compliance oversight and growth.

Have we lost sight of the intent and purpose?  Consider the implication of the intent and purpose.  These community-based healthcare centers are serving those that are financially, culturally and geographically discriminated.  These community servants are solving for the inequity in healthcare and require financial assistance to continue their lifesaving efforts.  Government funding is offered for those who qualify, yet not all qualify.  So, these health centers must look for savings elsewhere.  This is the genesis of the 340B Drug Discount Program.

For every business (and medical) endeavor, there is a portion of the pie that must be distributed to shared stakeholders.  Percentages going to TPAs, consultants, education/training at conferences, employees and fixed expenses.  What is left?  For many health centers it is that which is used for patient assistance programs, community-based outreach and preventative care.  If available funds could increase, more lives could be saved through quality care.

We are positioned to make that community-based piece of pie very appetizing.  Sitting back and watching the dismantling of intent and purpose through increased fees is something that we cannot ignore.  We would love to talk with you about how we can bring increased savings back to the health centers and the community.