Montana lawmakers will consider bill to lower prescription drug costs

csimt In The News

By: Holly Michels

In the upcoming 2019 legislative session, lawmakers will debate a proposal aimed at lowering the price Montanans pay for prescription drugs.

The bill, at the request of the state insurance commissioner, indirectly targets the practices of a little-known player in the transaction that happens when people pick up medications at the pharmacy…

“The biggest cause of high health insurance rates is the cost of health care itself, and prescription drugs make up roughly 20 percent of that cost. If we want to reduce insurance rates and the price of accessing health care, we must address the high costs of pharmaceuticals,” said Commissioner Matt Rosendale. “This legislation will be a big step forward in lowering the cost of prescription drugs in Montana, reducing consumers’ premiums and out-of-pocket medication costs, and injecting some much-needed transparency into the system.”…

“Current practices within the pharmaceutical industry result in Montanans overpaying for medication as money is funneled among various middlemen in the process without providing any benefit to the consumer. Montanans are being harmed by price gouging, kickbacks and other schemes. It’s time to put an end to those unethical practices,” Rosendale said…

But Hansen, with the commissioner’s office, said previous efforts by states to go after pharmacy benefit managers were tied up in federal courts.

“Federal law prevents states from regulating many aspects of health care benefits. Courts constantly strike down state laws that are pre-empted by federal law. Until Congress acts to change this broken system, we have to be very careful to stay within our limited jurisdiction on health insurance,” Hansen said. “We wrote this bill the way we did because we believe it will survive a lawsuit from the pharmaceutical industry and actually achieve results for Montanans…

The commissioner’s office is expecting opposition during the session from lobbyists in the industries it is targeting.

“The pharmacy benefit managers, insurance companies and other players in the pharmaceutical industry claim that how they operate is in the best interests of consumers. Based on our extensive research and the data we have, we strongly believe that is false. I expect we’ll hear a lot of misinformation and talking points against our legislation, but the numbers don’t lie. It’s time to hold the pharmaceutical and medical industries accountable for screwing over their patients and lying to Montanans,” said office communications director Kyle Schmauch.

Read more at the Billings Gazette