Bill Aimed At Curbing Prescription Drug Costs Advances

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By: Paul Dragu

A bill that its authors say will save Montanans up to $8 million in prescription drug costs continues to advance in the Legislature.

On Wednesday, the Senate voted 37-13 in favor of Senate Bill 71, sending it to the House for consideration. If the measure passes the House, it could only be stopped by the governor’s veto.

SB 71, written by State Auditor Matt Rosendale’s office, was first presented during a hearing Feb. 1 before the Senate Business and Labor Committee.

The bill’s sponsor, senator and orthopedic surgeon Dr. Al Olszewski, R-Kalispell, told the committee that Montana could lead the way in a nationwide movement to bring down prescription prices.

“If it works here – may I say, when it works here – we may be the start of something in the country,” Olszewski testified. That committee advanced the bill on a 6-4 vote along party lines.

With SB 71, Rosendale and his staff aim to rein in what they believe is a major reason behind high prescription drug costs for individuals: pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), the third-party administrators between insurance companies and consumers.

But instead of targeting PBMs, SB 71 would go after insurance companies.

Efforts by other states to reduce prescription drug costs have largely failed because they directly targeted PBMs with laws that were struck down in court because of conflicts with federal statutes, according to Rosendale’s office.

Montana’s approach puts responsibility in the hands of insurance companies, and that’s unique in the nation.

Read more at the Havre Herald