340BW conference recap

Conference recap: 2018 340B Coalition Winter Conference sheds light on the future of 340B

With the new year upon us, Sentry has made a concerted effort to attend and present at key conferences in 2018. We started off the year by attending the Texas Hospital Association’s (THA) annual meeting in Houston in early February, and most recently we attended the 14th 340B Coalition Winter Conference on February 21 in San Diego. Regardless of the event, one thing is consistent; healthcare is primed for changes, as indicated by the President’s FY19 budget proposal, and organizations are preparing for what the future will hold.

Charity care or uncompensated care—is there a difference? YES!

THA had a focus on government programs, including the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services 1115 waiver program, Medicare cost reporting requirements related to the S-10, and community benefit reporting for uncompensated care. Medicare cost report and policy experts were on hand to address regulatory policy changes. There are many changes to be aware of, and tying programs such as 340B to these new requirements may need to be approached with caution.

340B was on the minds of hospital administrators; in a well-attended session on preparing for this year’s legislative, judicial, and executive branch initiatives, I was able to present on key constituents, proposals, and initiatives that have financial implications and far-reaching impacts on direct patient care.  THA has prepared advocacy materials to support their hospital members as they tell their 340B stories.

The takeaway from THA president Phyllis Cowling’s address was, “Be uncomfortable—change doesn’t occur when we are comfortable.” I know for certain that 340B has many executives feeling discomfort as they continue trying to explain to lawmakers the importance of 340B.

State of 340B takes center stage

Sentry’s next stop was San Diego for the 2018 340B Coalition Winter Conference. This year’s meeting had a few firsts—including the pharmacy technician forum and several new individual member sessions—before diving into the pre-conference program for beginners and more advanced attendees seeking audit and compliance best practices. For those needing 340B University, a live event was held with close to 400 participants, including Sentry team members.

Sentry kicked off the conference with a full-day customer training program before the show opened, and individual 340B Health members were invited to a reception to raise awareness of the Political Action Committee, with healthcare policy professional Rodney Whitlock. On Thursday, I presented a session titled “Lessons in the Field,” where I compared 340B rules of engagement to the  Super Bowl—knowing the fans, players, penalties, time outs, and all-important half-time, to ensure your team wins the game. Various vendors were given the opportunity to share their broad experiences. I have now attended 32 340B conferences (winter and summer) since I began my 340B journey. It was an honor to be part of the faculty this year!

As highlighted in my recent podcast, this year’s conference focused on the events leading up to 2018 and what to expect for the remainder of the year. 340B Health introduced several new staffers, including Senior Vice President of Communications, Richard Sorian, and Senior Vice President of Legal and Advocacy, Susan Pilch. A farewell to Jeff Davis, Vice President, Legislative and Policy Counsel, was held on the last day, as he ended his seven and a half years of service to 340B Health with a gold medal for his work on advocacy for the 340B community. He will begin his next journey with the law firm Baker and Donelson as Counsel and Senior Advisor in the government relations and public policy group.

The keynote speaker, Donald Jones, Chief Digital Officer at Scripps Translational Science Institute, Cardiff Ocean Group Chairman, discussed healthcare and digital medicine of the future, calling to question the sustainability of PBMs, and touching on the topic of Amazon hitting the market this year to disrupt how consumers buy healthcare products and services online.

Apexus provided updates on their share back program and call center, encouraging conference attendees to obtain “Apexus Certified Expert” certification; they offered ‘340Bears’ and a pendant to those completing the program, including several Sentry employees.

Breakout sessions

The hospital breakout session provided time for hospitals to hear from 340B Health staff on several important key reports and bills introduced within the past six months. The most talked-about topic was charity care versus uncompensated care, and the need for hospitals to complete impact reports to demonstrate savings and let the public (emphasis: Congressional members) know how the hospitals are using their savings to align with the program intent—to stretch scarce federal resources to provide more comprehensive services. While hospitals met, others held forums with an emphasis on camaraderie; “We are all in this together…one change to hospitals means changes for all of us down the road,” noted Elizabeth Karan of Feldesman, Tucker, Leifer, Fidell, who represents the National Association of Community Health Centers.

Breakouts for Medicaid, Audit, and Corrective Action Plans were all well-attended, with a strong emphasis on advocacy and the art of communicating. Attendees ended the first day with an evening reception to network with peers and exhibitors.

The last morning of the conference got off to a running start with the charity fun run/walk benefiting Direct Relief. Sentry made a donation for each attendee that stopped by our booth, and the event brought in an additional $5,000 from charity contributors who sponsored the community fundraiser. Sentry staff also participated in the event, which ended with a surprise rainbow!

A Medicare Part B session was held near the end of the event, with covered entities discussing the recent implementation of the CMS ruling that resulted in 340B reimbursement cuts. Sentry continues to support our customers as they implement our solution to identify 340B claims requiring modifiers, as indicated by Medicare, to minimize all-or-none solutions that miss opportunities for full payment. Hospitals are encouraged to work with their finance teams to identify early outcomes of the 2018 cuts and review other service payments that were intended to increase by 3.2%, per estimates made by Medicare. Hospitals are seeing the reductions and will need to monitor whether increases are seen in other areas and ensure their voices are heard by 340B Health and other hospital advocates.

Closing remarks: We’re only in month two

This year’s conference had 1,632 attendees, with nearly 60 companies in industries including technology, advocacy, manufactures, and many other stakeholders. Covered entities made up nearly 65 percent of the attendees, with manufacturers, vendors/exhibitors, and pharmacies making up the other 35 percent.

The theme for 340B in 2018 is congressional engagement. With the Counsel of Economic Advisors, the President’s proposed budget, and three bills introduced out of the gate, additional activity is certain. 340B entities are encouraged to take knowledge gained at the conference back with them and share it with their executive sponsors, steering committees, and hospital leadership. Action is necessary. Attending an event is one thing, networking is another—but sharing lessons and taking action is the only way forward. Finish your impact report, meet with your government relations team, and check with your 340B vendor to find out how they are preparing for 2018 and beyond.