- Associated Press - Friday, October 10, 2014

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Insurance Commissioner Monica Lindeen is requiring Montana’s four largest health insurance companies to cover all prescription drugs equally beginning next year.

Lindeen announced the change Friday in Billings and said the current practice of treating certain drugs differently depending on the condition is discriminatory and allows for higher prices.

“The end of this discriminatory practice means more affordable options for people,” said Lindeen spokeswoman Jennifer McKee. “It’s a needed change that will make a difference in people’s lives.”

Certain drugs used for conditions such as multiple sclerosis, cancer and hepatitis are currently put into a specialty drug category. At this level, some patients have had to pay thousands of dollars for the drugs upfront before seeing any prescription drug insurance benefit, Lindeen said.

McKee said they told insurance companies if they were offering a co-pay option for one category of drugs, they had to do it for all.

Insurance companies can largely afford the change, McKee said, because the move simply changes how people pay deductibles.

“If you’ve got cancer, you’re going to reach your deductible by the end of the year,” she said. “It really changes how they pay a deductible and when.”

She said talks began with insurance companies after they received complaints from cancer and multiple sclerosis organizations throughout the state. McKee said the changes were made without a battle from insurance companies.

Montana is the only state to have negotiated such a change, McKee said, and the commission is getting national inquiries about their work.

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