Rosendale drug cost bill clears hurdle in House

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By: Phil Drake

The House gave preliminary approval to a bill Wednesday that officials said would reduce some drug costs and make insurance companies accountable for prescription drug benefits offered through health plans.

Senate Bill 71, from state Auditor Matt Rosendale’s office, will change how companies called pharmacy benefit managers, also known as PBMs, operate in Montana, officials said.

The House voted 82-18 to approve second reading of the bill and turned down an amendment to make it expire in four years unless renewed by the Legislature. The bill must pass a third reading.

Rep. Gordon Pierson, D-Deer Lodge, carried the bill in the House, saying it was good for consumers on individual markets…

SB 71 mandates health insurers pay the same for prescriptions that pharmacies receive for those drugs. It keeps PBMs from reimbursing pharmacies for less than they charge health plans and keep the difference. Insurance companies are also to get the rebates that drug manufacturers normally pay to PBMs. The insurance companies are to use those rebates to lower drug costs.

The bill applies to the individual health insurance market in Montana.

The bill will save Montanans about $8 million in the first year alone, Rosendale’s office estimates. The proposal includes legal actions against pharmacy benefit managers, Rosendale said, adding Louisiana, Texas, North Dakota and Rhode Island are also interested.

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