Will Montana Pass A Bill That Could Save $7 Million In Drug Costs & Set The Course For Reform In The Nation?

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By: Paul Dragu

It’s possible Montana will soon pass a bill its creators believe could save Montanans more than $7 million dollars a year in prescription drug costs.

The bill, which was presented during a hearing Feb. 1 to the Senate Business and Labor Committee is crafted from scratch by State Auditor Matt Rosendale’s office. It’s also being eyed by other states as a possible roadmap of how they too can curb drug costs for their residents, members of Rosendale’s team boast.

The bill’s sponsor, senator and orthopedic surgeon Dr. Al Olszewski, R-Kalispell, believes Montana could lead the way in what could be the start of nationwide reform.

“This is a good bill. It’s a made-in-Montana solution for a very difficult situation,” Olszewski told the committee. “And if it works here — may I say when it works here– we may be the start of something in the country.”

Rosendale and his staff believe they can prevail where others have failed. SB71 aims to rein in what advocates believe is a major culprit responsible for high prescription drug costs for individuals: Pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), third party administrators between insurance companies and consumers.

But instead of targeting PBMs SB71 would go after insurance companies.

“Efforts in other states to rein in the cost of prescription drugs have largely failed because they directly targeted PBMs with laws that were struck down in court due to conflicts with federal statutes,” a press release from Rosendale’s office says. “The State Auditor’s approach to solving this problem by putting the responsibility in the hands of insurance companies is unique in the nation.”

Chief legal counsel for the Auditor’s office and former Hi-Line legislator Kris Hansen says, “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.”

SB71 would apply only to the individual drug market. Rosendale likened the twisting path a drug travels on its way from the manufacturer to the consumer to that of a computer circuit board. The bill aims to reform the way health insurance companies contract with PMBs with the goal of eliminating pricing schemes and reducing consumers’ health care costs.

Here’s how:

Read more at the Havre Herald