MTPR

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana

Montana Lawmakers Push Bills On Health Costs, Transparency

Apr 17, 2017
Montana capitol, Helena.
William Marcus

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Congress may be undecided about former President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, but Montana lawmakers are pushing through legislation they believe will bring down health care costs and increase price transparency regardless of what happens in Washington.

A half-dozen measures were still alive as the 2017 legislative session enters its final days. They include authorizing a high-risk insurance pool, allowing out-of-state insurers to sell policies in Montana, better informing patients about health care prices and giving tax credits to small companies that offer high-deductible plans to their employees.

A bill to address the high cost of air ambulance rides may not do anything if it passes in the state legislature. Because, as one lawmaker puts it, the proposed legislation may accomplish its goal even before it becomes law.

A line of people waiting to testify in support of removing balance billing for air ambulance rides in Montana.
Corin Cates-Carney

Montana lawmakers are trying to find a balance between the lifesaving air ambulance services, and the crippling debt those rides can bury patients in.

Healthcare professionals say that modern information sharing could improve healthcare and save money.
(PD)

There's a new effort underway in the state to better connect hospitals, doctors' offices and other health care providers. Like, through the internet. That's not really happening much now, and it's frustrating to doctors like Michael Vlases with Bozeman Health:

Montana health insurance market breakdown.
Courtesy Montana Commissioner of Securities Insurance

State Insurance Commissioner Monica Lindeen says the health insurance premiums one company is charging in Montana next year are, “unreasonable,” and that those proposed by two other companies were too low and needed to be adjusted upward.

Billings Clinic launched a pilot project to help rural primary care providers deliver mental or behavioral health care to their patients.

“Montana is at the epicenter of a mental health crisis,” says Dr. Eric Arzubi, chair of the Psychiatry Department at Billings Clinic.

He says there aren’t enough psychiatrists, so it falls upon primary care providers in rural areas to help their patients who are struggling with mental and behavioral health issues.

Governor Steve Bullock announcing a new healthcare reform initiative in Missoula Monday at Western Montana Clinic.
Eric Whitney

Montana has been invited to participate in a new phase of health care reform that some big players in the healthcare industry here say should save significant money. Governor Bullock made the announcement at St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula Monday morning.

Commissioner of Securities & Insurance Monica Lindeen.
Eric Whitney

If you want to know why health insurance companies in Montana are asking for big price increases on some of the policies they sell here next year, there are some easy answers – but they only tell part of the story.

The three health insurance companies that sell individual policies in Montana say they need to increase their prices significantly next year. They're asking Montana's Health Insurance Commissioner Monica Lindeen to approve average premium increases for individual health plans that range from 20 to 62 percent. In the small group market, the insurers are proposing premium increases of three percent to 32 percent. 

Insurers, Air Ambulances Would Consider Rate Negotiation

May 25, 2016
Two bills designed to help protect Montanans from unexpected and exorbitant air ambulance bills get their first hearings at the state legislature Tuesday.
(PD)

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana health insurance providers and representatives of air ambulance companies said Wednesday they would at least consider negotiations and possibly binding arbitration as a way to set acceptable rates and prevent air ambulance patients from being shocked by their bills.

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