Keep fighting to lower prescription drug costs

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Guest Commentary

We must keep working to lower prescription drugs prices in Montana. After conducting a nearly two-year investigation into drug costs, including taking several major players to court in order to access information, my team and I brought forward a bill that we projected would save Montanans about $8 million on medications in the first year alone.

 Our approach to reforming one part of the massive pharmaceutical system has now been copied by the U.S. Senate and states like Maine, which recently passed their version of our bill unanimously and had it signed into law. Our approach to tackling rising drug costs has already been proven to work by the Montana health plan for state government employees, which immediately saved $7.4 million after enacting similar changes.

Our bill was supported by a large and diverse group of Montanans, including local doctors and pharmacists, and even Montana’s largest union. It passed the legislature by large margins in both chambers, with bipartisan support.

 The only people who opposed the bill were drug industry middlemen, health insurance companies, and Governor Steve Bullock. The middlemen didn’t like the bill because it shined a light on their secret, manipulative practices that drive up costs. Health insurers didn’t want it because they didn’t want to be responsible for how much their customers pay for lifesaving medication, and because they’re incentivized by federal laws to keep health care costs high. Governor Bullock opposed the bill for political purposes with statements that didn’t match up with what the bill actually did. By vetoing the legislation, Bullock sided with the multi-billion-dollar pharmaceutical industry instead of Montanans struggling to afford medical bills.  

Bullock’s veto is a prime example of politicians looking out for themselves instead of their constituents. Because of the cost-saving reforms implemented at the State Health Plan, health insurance rates haven’t increased for state employees, including elected officials like Bullock, for years. Apparently the governor doesn’t think regular Montanans should get the same type of cost-savings.

 Despite Governor Bullock’s veto, we will keep fighting to lower the cost of prescription drugs. We’ll continuing pressing for more data from the insurance companies and drug industry middlemen. We’ll keep working with Congress and the Trump Administration to enact reforms at the federal level and will once again have legislation ready to be introduced in Montana’s next legislative session. Hopefully our next governor will place a higher priority on lowering health care costs and sign that bill.

 Thank you to all the people who came out to support our bill to lower the cost of medicine, especially the pharmacists who stuck their necks out to make their voices heard. Thank you to the legislators—Republicans and Democrats—who stood with us in challenging the secretive and powerful players in the drug industry. We look forward to continuing to work together to lower the cost of prescription drugs in Montana.  



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