Mike Dennison – MTN News
HELENA — State Auditor Matt Rosendale is urging Montana lawmakers to vote to override Gov. Steve Bullock’s veto of a bill designed to reduce the cost of prescription drugs, through new restrictions on pharmacy-benefit managers.
“If every legislator who already voted to lower prescription-drug costs votes for this bill one more time, it will become law,” he said in a statement Monday. “All it takes to save Montanans millions on their medications is for legislators to stick to the votes they originally cast.”
Senate Bill 71, sponsored by Sen. Al Olszewski, R-Kalispell, earlier this year passed the Senate 37-13 and the House 71-27 — more than the two-thirds needed to override a veto by the governor.
However, with the Legislature adjourned for the year, lawmakers must vote by mail whether to override a veto. Ballots were sent to legislators last week and they have until June 14 to submit their vote.
Bullock, a Democrat, vetoed SB71 on May 9. In his veto message, Bullock said the bill could end up raising, instead of lowering, prescription drug costs for consumers by increasing administrative costs for insurers.
Rosendale, a Republican, said Bullock’s veto was based on “faulty information” and has issued a lengthy rebuttal.
Rosendale also released a statement Monday from Democratic state Rep. Gordon Pierson of Deer Lodge, who urged fellow lawmakers to override the governor’s veto. Pierson said the bill “transcends party lines” and would save Montanans millions on prescription drugs. Most of the “no” votes on the bill came from Democrats.
The bill takes aim at pharmacy-benefit managers (PBMs), by restricting certain pricing practices that keep prices high and requiring that rebates paid by drug manufacturers go to the insurer and the consumer, instead of the PBMs.
Rosendale’s office, which drafted the bill, estimated it would save Montanans buying health insurance on the individual market between $7.5 million and $8 million on drug costs in its first year.
Health insurers and PBMs lobbied against the bill and asked Bullock to veto it. Insurers said the bill requires them to enforce the law, through their contracts with PBMs, and that they would unfairly face penalties for practices over which they had no control.