Montana politicians pen letters criticizing Department of Defense over pharmacy policy

HELENA, Mont. – Commissioner of Securities and Insurance Troy Downing penned a letter to the White House last week, criticizing the Department of Defense (DOD) for allowing a change in policy that could leave Montana veterans without an in-network pharmacy.

TRICARE is the health program for the DOD, providing health benefits for active-duty military members, military families, and veterans.

A recent change made by Express Scripts, which manages TRICARE’s pharmacy benefits, would reduce the number of in-network pharmacies in the program.

“Our military members and their families have sacrificed for this country,” said Downing. “We need to make sure we’re living up to our obligations to give them the services they need to thrive, and their families need to survive.”

Downing emphasized the negative impacts the change could have on rural military families in particular.

“So, you get deployed and all of the sudden, God-forbid, you have a child who gets sick. Now your family has to figure out how to get that prescription filled when they don’t have one right in their backyard,” Downing explained.

Downing said the White House has not yet responded to his letter and emphasized the urgency behind his request. The change goes into effect Oct. 24.

Senator Jon Tester expressed similar misgivings towards the change.

“Reducing access to prescription drugs for our troops, military retirees and their families is totally unacceptable,” said Tester. “I will continue to strongly oppose any efforts to restrict rural Montanan’s access to their local pharmacies and needed medications.”

In his role as the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, Tester sent a letter urging the DOD to take action to protect TRICARE beneficiaries last month.

In that letter, Tester argued the decision could drive as many as 15,000 community pharmacies out of the TRICARE network.

According to reporting by military.com, Express Scripts responded to the controversy last month.

“Tricare beneficiaries will maintain access to nearly 41,000 chain, grocery store, and independent pharmacies, as well as home delivery and military pharmacies,” the Express Scripts statement said. “More than 90% of beneficiaries will have a pharmacy within a 15-minute drive time of their home.”

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