RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — There has been increased scrutiny around the not-for-profit health system, Bon Secours Mercy Health, after a recently published New York Times investigation entitled “Profit Over Patients” focused on reports of corporate negligence at Richmond Community Hospital.
According to the investigation, New York Times sources claimed that Bon Secours had been profiting from a federal prescription drug discount program exclusive to hospitals in low-income communities. The 340B Drug Discount Program was intended to fund reinvestments in low-income facilities. The report alleges that Bon Secours, instead of reinvesting in Richmond Community Hospital, was keeping hundreds of millions in profits.
The lack of resources and renovations, according to those interviewed in the report, has put patients at Richmond Community Hospital in serious danger — sometimes leading to fatal consequences.
Following the report, Bon Secours released a response, emphasizing the health provider’s investments in the local community.
“As a faith-based, Mission-driven health care ministry, Bon Secours works to extend the compassionate ministry of Jesus by improving the health and well-being of our communities,” a statement from the Maryland-based non-profit reads. “To suggest that we don’t operate in full support of our important Mission is without merit and we take issue with such baseless allegations.”
8News sat down with Sen. Tim Kaine to hear his reaction to the investigation firsthand.
“Many of our hospitals who provide care to … the poor and those who really need healthcare, they rely on this 340B program to bring down the cost of prescription drugs for the most [in need] communities in Virginia and around the country,” Kaine said. “The thought that somebody might be using this program as a kind-of profit center rather than to really help people was very very troubling. So, we’ve always got to make sure we hear a response before we decide what to do — but I think Bon Secours owes everybody an answer on this.”
He went on to say he was worried that the outcome of the investigation may lead to intense scrutiny directed toward the 340B Drug Discount Program — a health program that Kaine claimed is absolutely critical to Virginia.
Kaine was not the only Virginia lawmaker to release a statement following the New York Times investigation. Sen. Mark Warner said he would welcome scrutiny in order to maintain the program’s integrity.
“The facts outlined by this reporting are troubling, and it is disheartening to see communities in need being let down,” Warner said. “While there’s no quick fix to this problem, I welcome increased scrutiny and believe that it is Congress’ responsibility to ensure that the integrity of this program is upheld.”
The office of Rep. Abigail Spanberger also commented on the report, saying that she would support further oversights for the 340B program if it would ensure it could not be taken advantage of.
“For decades, the 340B Drug Discount Program has provided important benefits to safety-net hospitals in Virginia — and it’s critical for lowering drug costs for Virginians living in rural and underserved areas who are served by community health centers and rural hospitals,” a spokesperson for Spanberger said. “Rep. Spanberger is deeply troubled by reports that Bon Secours Mercy Health System has not lived up to its commitment to the communities Richmond Community Hospital serves. She will always support additional oversight of federal programs and tax benefits to ensure not-for-profits are meeting commitments to the communities they serve and complying with the intent of the 340B Program.”
Abigail Spanberger did not sponsor legislation for the 340B drug discount program. The article has been updated to reflect that.