Sentry Data Systems recently sponsored and attended the Texas Hospital Association (THA) Annual Conference and Expo, held February 20-22 in Austin, Texas. Sentry was pleased to have the opportunity to engage with hospitals on topics spanning both 340B and analytics.
Rural healthcare takes center stage
Day one focused on rural healthcare, with an emphasis on 340B and innovations in rural communities to ensure cancer treatment availability. Kevin Latimer of Childress Regional Medical Center presented on how the hospital extended cancer treatment to its patient population, sharing how local patients and providers inspired them to make a difference in time-to-therapy. They shared a short YouTube video that offered both patient and provider perspectives on how the hospital worked to provide care using their 1115 waiver combined with 340B access. Additionally, Nor-Lea Hospital District in Lovington, New Mexico shared their success story in providing specialty clinics for their rural population.
Challenges beyond 340B
Other challenges discussed included staffing and telehealth. Hospitals shared strategies and tactics for providing care to their local communities and patient stories and experiences, including the value of limiting the distance traveled for chemotherapy. Yet another hot topic was how hospitals can calculate the value of both the savings generated from 340B and the lives impacted in a transparent manner.
In addition to 340B, discussions around other challenges faced by rural hospitals included cybersecurity, the Medicaid 1115 waiver rules governing uncompensated care and payment distribution, and legal topics such as recent litigation, rulemaking, telemedicine, reimbursement, and workforce issues.
A focus on finances
Reimbursement conversations focused on “surprise billing,” sometimes called balanced billing – when physicians bill patients for an outstanding balance after the insurance company submits its portion of the bill – which can come as quite a surprise to patients. To that end, THA provided conference attendees with resources on hospital financing. They also discussed the struggles Texas has been facing related to both local and federal policy cuts—including 340B Medicare Part B reductions.
Another topic that gained a lot of attention at the event was the so-called “discriminatory pricing” issue that was recently raised when Caremark, a PBM owned by CVS, sent letters to on-site pharmacies at 340B entities across the country, announcing that drug price reimbursements for those 340B pharmacies would be significantly reduced. Though that plan has since been abandoned, it sparked a larger dialogue at the conference around discriminatory pricing and protecting covered entities’ choice in compliance partners.
Additionally, THA noted that it is closely monitoring bills being proposed at the state level related to patient billing policies.
THA offers several online resources that offer news updates, support hospitals and help answer questions about public policy, legal challenges, and more.
On the final day of the conference, Troy Brennan, MD, Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of CVS Health, shared his insights on population health and CVS Health’s goals in terms of supporting patient services in ways that extend beyond the pharmacy, to laboratory, primary care, optometry, audiology, and urgent care.
Sentry continues to support its rural hospital customers amidst the flurry of legislative, administrative, and judicial activity that has taken place this past year and is expected to continue well into 2019. We encourage our rural customers to utilize resources provided by organizations such as THA, network with other rural hospitals to share ideas and reach out to Sentry with any concerns you may have.