Bullock approves Medicaid expansion, reinsurance program; vetoes prescription drug bill

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By: Michael Woodel

The governor signed 20 bills in all Thursday, though his lone veto drew the ire of state Commissioner of Securities and Insurance Matt Rosendale.

Sen. Albert Olszewski, R-Kalispell, carried Senate Bill 71 at Rosendale’s request. The bill sought to reduce prescription drug prices by regulating the contracts insurance companies can sign with pharmacy benefit managers, who are hired to negotiate prices with pharmacies and manufacturers.

A Thursday veto letter from Bullock’s office maintained Olszewski’s bill would increase administrative costs, and tied in its fate with the new state reinsurance program by claiming it would offset savings the program creates.

Bullock vetoed two bills in the 2017 sessions intended to establish a reinsurance program…

Meanwhile, the veto letter for Olszewski’s bill surfaced soon after Thursday’s ceremony. Bullock claimed in the letter that the bill would increase administrative costs, and risked higher drug prices under “regional or nonprofit” plans while reducing access to prescription drugs for rural Montanans by prohibiting “certain mail-order pharmacies.”

Rosendale spokesman Kyle Schmauch issued a line-by-line response Thursday afternoon that labeled many of the letter’s claims false, especially the one that Olszewski’s bill would restrict access to mail-order pharmacies.

Regarding the relationship of Olszewski’s bill to the reinsurance program, Schmauch said that even if there was evidence the bill would cause market instability — which he denied — the costs would be far outweighed by the new program.

“Prescription drugs make up a big portion of the insurance people pay … and insurance rates are a direct result of health care costs,” Schmauch said. “So it’s a big chunk, but we’re talking about $7-8 million in savings for consumers from Senate Bill 71 when we’re talking about tens and tens of millions of dollars in offsets from a reinsurance program. The governor is just absolutely full of it in that veto letter.”…

Schmauch countered that Olszewski’s bill was the only one presented in 2019 that would have lowered prescription drug prices, calling reforms proposed by other prescription drug legislation “really minor” in comparison.

Read more at the Helena IR