Sen. Ujifusa introduces two bills to support veterans

STATE HOUSE – Sen. Linda Ujifusa, a member of the Senate Special Legislation and Veterans’ Affairs Committee, is sponsoring two bills that support veterans.

One (2023-S 0710) would allow veterans of the United States National Guard who served in any military conflict to receive an exemption on their property taxes. Current law provides such tax exemptions to veterans who served active duty but excludes former and current members of the National Guard.

“The brave men and women who served in combat areas in the National Guard should be eligible for the same tax benefits as our other veterans,” said Senator Ujifusa (D-Dist. 11, Portsmouth, Bristol). “This bill is the least we can do to show our appreciation for their sacrifice.”

Under current law, active duty military veterans who served in a war, conflict or undeclared war are eligible for a $1,000 exemption on their property taxes. But veterans of the National Guard are not eligible for such exemptions, even if they were deployed to a conflict zone.

Senator Ujifusa is also sponsoring a Senate resolution (2023-S 0673) that would urge the Rhode Island congressional delegation to protect pharmacy access and choice for veterans.

The Department of Defense currently offers military members and their families health insurance through a program called TRICARE. Prior to 2022, patients with insurance through TRICARE were able to pick up their prescriptions either at Veterans Administration (VA) hospitals or local pharmacies.

In 2022, the Department of Defense (DoD) contracted with a company called Express Scripts, owned by insurance giant Cigna, to provide prescription services to TRICARE members as the DoD’s sole pharmacy benefit manager (PBM). The company then slashed the rates they paid pharmacists below the costs of many prescription drugs, including for cancer medications. Over 15,000 local pharmacists have since stopped accepting TRICARE, meaning thousands of military families have had to go to VA hospitals or order their medications through the mail.

The only mail provider covered by Express Scrits is a company called Accredo Health Group, which is also owned by Cigna.

“Our tax dollars should be going to support our veterans and military personnel, not to give PBM middlemen huge undeserved profits by limiting pharmacy choices of our military families,” said Senator Ujifusa.

The resolution calls on the federal delegation to work with the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness to protect prescription access for military families, better monitor pharmacy participation in TRICARE and ensure subcontractors do not discriminate against local pharmacies.

“We sometimes say ‘thank you for your service’ so frequently that it loses its meaning,” said Senator Ujifusa. “This bill and this resolution are about showing, not just with words but with actions, how grateful we are to those who serve.”