Louisiana Enacts Law to Hold Big Pharma Accountable, Protect Rural Communities

Last week, Louisiana went ahead and signed into law a bill protecting a drug-discount program that overwhelmingly benefits rural, working-class patients and helps to keep the hospitals they rely on alive and functioning.


During the legislative session, the Louisiana House passed the bill with a 97-2 vote, while the Louisiana Senate unanimously voted for HB 548, which blocks Big Pharma from denying or interfering with drug discounts afforded to providers of this type and their contract pharmacies under decades-old federal law. On June 19, Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the bill into law.

The bill signing by Bel Edwards is interesting because it represents a Democrat (albeit a conservative, Southern one) moving to protect the 340B drug discount program at a time when it has been under siege from blue states including California and New York.

340b is a federal program that requires drug companies to offer their products at deeply-discounted prices to hospitals and clinics that predominantly serve working-class, rural patients. Without these discounts, many of these so-called critical access providers would not be able to stay in business or provide the same level of care that they currently do.

The reason that 340b hospitals and clinics might be in trouble without the discounts is that while these providers get to buy their drugs at discounted prices, they are allowed to receive full reimbursement from insurance companies and wealthier patients for providing the drug — an arrangement that provides critical revenue for hospitals and clinics that are often strapped for resources.


Louisiana’s move comes in stark contrast to the policies of places like New York state, where Governor Kathy Hochul (D) has pushed ahead with new regulations originally proposed by disgraced former Gov. Andrew Cuomo that would have the state government take over all drug purchasing and suspend 340b. Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont has also been attacking the 340b program, which benefits patients mostly not comprising his political base, through a bill he personally has sponsored in the state legislature (despite being a governor).

Louisiana is joined in protecting 340b by other states, such as Arizona, which recently passed a law that outlawed any kind of discrimination against hospitals that participate in the 340b program.

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont—yes, that guy who back in 2006 primaried Sen. Joe Lieberman, won, and then lost to Lieberman who ran as an Independent in the general—had previously attempted his own maneuver to hamper the program. Apparently, Lamont dropped that effort at the last minute after critics in the state pointed out that it looked like him punishing his political opponents (the program is used by a lot of poorer Trump voters in Connecticut).


None of this is as attention-grabbing as Hunter Biden plea deals, Lauren Boebert trying to impeach Joe Biden, what Marjorie Taylor Greene called her during that effort, an attempted coup in Russia, or apparently a billionaire-packed submarine going down in the vicinity of the Titanic, but it might have a bigger effect on a lot of Louisianans’ lives—and if other states copy Louisiana, potentially a lot of other Americans’ lives, too.


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