KPVI: Under The Dome

Tester pushes for lower prescription drug costs for seniors

As a part of his continued effort to lower prescription drug costs for Montana seniors and support community pharmacies, U.S. Senator Jon Tester led a bipartisan group of Senators in urging the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to swiftly review the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) proposed rule to lower out-of-pocket prescription drug costs for seniors by bringing so-called pharmacy direct and indirect remuneration (DIR) fees under control.

“Finalizing CMS’ DIR fee reform proposal will help save Medicare Part D beneficiaries more than $20 billion in prescription drug costs, while also providing increased transparency and predictability for pharmacies and the communities they serve,” wrote the Senators. “We urge you to move forward with review of this rule so that these important reforms can be implemented as quickly as possible.”

Under Medicare Part D, pharmacy middlemen known as Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) require additional payments from pharmacies after the drug is sold to the patient that changes the final cost of the drug. These are called DIR fees. In recent years, these middlemen have increasingly returned to pharmacies days or even months after the final sale to demand more in DIR fees. From 2010 to 2020, CMS documented a 107,400 percent increase in DIR fees paid by pharmacies.

Tester pushed hard for CMS to take administrative action after introducing bipartisan legislation last year to combat the high cost of prescription drug prices and the predatory practices of PBM). Tester’s legislation, the Pharmacy DIR Reform to Reduce Senior Drug Costs Act, would ensure that all DIR fees are made clear at the point of sale, eliminating the retroactive nature of DIR clawback fees.

Daines introduces bill to exempt outfitters from overtime requirements

U.S. Senator Steve Daines (R-Mont.), top Republican on the Senate National Parks Subcommittee, and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) today introduced a bipartisan bill to support the outdoor economy by exempting outfitters and guides from burdensome overtime hour requirements.

“Thanks to Montana’s outfitters and guides, folks from all over the world come to Montana to hunt, fish and explore our great outdoors, and as a result, Montana’s outdoor economy is thriving,” Daines said. “It’s critical we pass my bipartisan bill to help protect Montana sportsmen jobs by cutting burdensome red tape that limits Montana workers and adds unnecessary burdens to Montana small business owners.”

“We’re boosting Arizona’s outdoor recreational tourism industry, fueling job creation and expanding recreational opportunities across our state,” Sinema said.

Daines drew support for the bill from outfitters and others:

“Montana Outfitters and Guides Association is proud to support this industry saving legislation that protects outfitters and guides from out-of-touch regulations that would have put many Montanans out of business. This bill is critical to protecting sportsmen and recreation access, and jobs, particularly in rural communities where opportunities are limited. Thank you Senator Daines and Senator Sinema, for championing this bipartisan effort.” – Mac Minard, Executive Director Montana Outfitters and Guides Association

“Now more than ever, we need to make sure that outdoor recreation experiences remain accessible and affordable to all. Through this bill, Senator Daines and Senator Sinema are working to ensure that seasonal outfitters can continue to provide transformative outdoor experiences without facing exorbitant operating costs.” -Aaron Bannon, Executive Director of America Outdoors.

Rosendale calls out VA Secretary

During a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing, Congressman Matt Rosendale called out U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough for breaking his promise to fix the problems within the Cerner electronic health records system before deploying it to additional VA sites and risking even more veterans’ lives around the country.

“You pledged to us that this system would not be introduced in other facilities until it is fully functional–it is not,” said Congressman Rosendale. “We have a list of life-threatening events that continue to take place to this very day. There is documentation for the wrong patients, doctors cannot rely upon the information they are reviewing to accurately treat patients.”