Montana State Auditor and Insurance Commissioner Troy Downing spoke to KGVO News on Tuesday to discuss a bill about to be signed by Governor Gianforte that will give his office a better handle on prescription drug costs due to Pharmacy Benefit Managers.

“It is one of the biggest growth areas in patient care,” said Downing. “I spoke to the folks over at Blue Cross Blue Shield awhile back and they said that almost a third of the money that they're spending on patient care is going into prescription drugs, and if you think about that, of all the money that they spend on surgeries, on hospitalizations, on treatments, everything that they do, that a third of that is going to prescriptions, and that's a growing part of patient care costs.”

Downing said Senate Bill 395 provides more state control and accountability for Pharmacy Benefit Managers, who are middlemen between drug companies and pharmacy companies.

“What this bill does, first of all, it's a licensure bill,” he said. “So it requires PBM’s that are doing business in Montana to license with this office. The problem is right now is we have no idea how many PBM’s are operating in Montana, so the first thing to understand is who's here. The second thing is, is it requires them to report all of these rebates and remunerations, all this money that they're receiving from different places and make that available to the health care plans.”

Downing said Senate Bill 395 is about to be signed into law by Governor Gianforte.

Another issue Downing revealed was with the meteoric rise in home prices also comes a similar rise in home replacement costs, which will affect the premiums homeowners pay.

“What we'll do as an office is make sure that we continue to reach out to the public and let them know what the problem is and whether they should be speaking with their insurance agent on making sure that they are adequately covered for realistic expectations of replacement costs,” he said.

In addition to increasing insurance costs, Downing is deeply concerned about an upcoming startling rise in property taxes, especially for those on fixed incomes, despite of the fact that his office has no control over those costs.

“It scares me in terms of somebody that did purchase a home thirty to forty years ago; spent their lives paying off that mortgage, but now they've paid off the mortgage and they're ready for retirement. And the very real risk as we've seen property values will just skyrocket due to being reassessed at a much higher value, and having a much higher property tax bill with that. I think that's a real risk that needs to be addressed.”

Downing said only the state legislature can address the property tax issue.

LOOK: Here are the biggest HBCUs in America

More than 100 historically Black colleges and universities are designated by the U.S. Department of Education, meeting the definition of a school "established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of black Americans."

StudySoup compiled the 20 largest historically Black colleges and universities in the nation, based on 2021 data from the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics. Each HBCU on this list is a four-year institution, and the schools are ranked by the total student enrollment.

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