Flathead Beacon: Tester Discusses Healthcare Affordability, Drug Costs at Logan Health

by Denali Sagner

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester on Friday visited with medical providers and Flathead Valley residents at Logan Health in Kalispell to discuss his efforts to reduce healthcare costs for Montanans under the federal Inflation Reduction Act. The Inflation Reduction Act, which Tester voted to pass last summer, includes a variety of provisions that reduce out-of-pocket medical and drug costs, specifically for Medicare recipients. Tester was joined by community members who spoke about their experiences with high prescription drug costs and healthcare accessibility in the Flathead Valley.

“The Inflation Reduction Act is a game changer when it comes to cutting costs for Montanans, and specifically Montana seniors,” Tester said, praising what he described as a landmark piece of legislation that holds pharmaceutical companies accountable to Americans and lowers barriers to critical medical care.

The Inflation Reduction Act, a budget reconciliation bill signed into law by President Joe Biden in August 2022, includes a number of provisions aimed at curbing the cost of prescription drugs. Under the legislation, the federal government is required to negotiate drug prices for some medications covered under Medicare, amending a longstanding non-interference clause that limited the government’s ability to push for lower costs. The measure also requires drug manufacturers to pay rebates for medications when prices grow faster than inflation and caps out-of-pocket spending for a higher number of Medicare users. Some new vaccines are also covered by Medicare at no-cost, among other provisions.

The law also capped the price of insulin at $35 per month for Medicare users, a piece of the legislation that preceded the recent announcement by drug manufacturer Eli Lily and Company on March 1 that they would reduce the sticker prices of several insulin products, and would cap out-of-pocket costs for all users to $35 per month.

Tester on Friday said that the decision by Eli Lily “would not have happened had we not passed the Inflation Reduction Act.”

“Folks won’t have to pay an arm and a leg for this critical lifesaving drug,” the Senator said. “We did all of this by making the largest corporations pay their fair share.”

Tester was the only member of Montana’s congressional delegation to vote for the Inflation Reduction Act. Republicans Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Matt Rosendale voted against the passage of the bill in 2022.

Logan Health Chief Medical Officer Cory Short praised Tester’s work on the Inflation Reduction Act, saying doctors at Logan Health have seen an increase in the number of patients, specifically senior citizens, who cannot afford lifesaving prescription drugs.

According to a report by healthcare foundation the Commonwealth Fund, 7.7% of Montanans in 2021 went without healthcare due to high costs.

“The increased costs have led to patients not seeking healthcare,” Short said. “Unfortunately, we see day in and day out when our patients are not able to afford medications.”

“The Inflation Reduction Act consists of common sense reforms, many of which are long, long overdue,” Mike Jopek, former state representative for Kalispell, said, as he discussed the high costs of medication for Medicare recipients like his mother, who he said “takes a handful of lifesaving pills every day.”

Tester on Feb. 22 said that he will seek reelection to a fourth term in the U.S. Senate, a critical announcement for Democrats who face a difficult road ahead as they attempt to retain their slim Senate majority in 2024. Despite Montana’s rightward shift in recent election cycles, Tester has maintained one of the highest approval ratings in Congress and has staved off Republican challengers in three Senate races, even while the state voted overwhelmingly for Republicans in other races. In 2018, Tester was the only Democratic senator from a Republican-leaning state to win reelection after voting against the Supreme Court nominees picked by former President Donald Trump. While a Republican has yet to officially challenge Tester, Axios reported on Thursday that Senate Republicans are close to recruiting Tim Sheehy, a military veteran and the CEO of Bridger Aerospace, a Belgrade-based aerial firefighting company.

Tester Discusses Healthcare Affordability, Drug Costs at Logan Health – Flathead Beacon