Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - Montana State Auditor and Insurance Commissioner Troy Downing issued a scathing letter on Wednesday to the U.S. Department of Defense and TRICARE drastically reducing the number of in-network pharmacies in Montana.

KGVO News reached out to Commissioner Downing for more details of the action that could severely reduce access by veterans to the prescriptions they need.

“The health insurance that active duty military and are in the National Guard have is under TRICARE,” said Downing. “TRICARE uses a pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) called Express Scripts that just announced that they are removing up to 15,000 independent pharmacies from their program.”

Downing said this reduction in service will drastically lower the opportunities for Montana veterans to get the healthcare they have earned through their military service.

“Especially in a rural state like Montana, this is going to have devastating effects on the easy ability for our active duty National Guard and retirees to get medications,” he said. “This is especially true of the emergent ones when you need something right away, not something that you can have through a mail order or some other mechanism.”

Downing said the reduction in service is just days away before veterans will have a chance to find other options.

“So this is actually coming into effect on the 24th of October,” he said. “So it's just coming down the pipe right now, and we're incredibly concerned at the effect that this is going to have to our military. Basically, we're breaking promises. We're saying that they can't use their local independent pharmacies. And as you know, across Montana, not everybody has a CVS in their backyard. So this is going to be a really difficult situation.”

Downing said if the program was run by the state and was under the authority of the Montana legislature, his office could help find a solution.

“If this was something other than a federal program, or if this was a PBM, or a health plan that was operating in the state of Montana, then we would not have allowed it,” he said. “Limiting this choice to these people that serve our country, first of all is unpatriotic. But in terms of what we do as an agency, is we would not approve that as an adequate network. In other words, we would not approve that program if you're that PBM or that health plan. If you don't have enough local access, it most likely would not have been approved under a state program.”

You can read Downing’s letter to President Joe Biden by clicking here.

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