Health care

U.S. Supreme Court
Flickr user: Marty Stone (CC-BY-NC-2)

The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act’s subsidies for people to buy health insurance means nothing really changes in Montana’s health insurance market. And that’s pretty big news.

Susan Cahill says she had over 400 regular patients that came to her for general family practice medicine.
Corin Cates-Carney

When Zachary Klundt broke into and vandalized All Families Healthcare in Kalispell, in March 2014, he destroyed the only clinic providing abortions in the Flathead Valley.

Now, over a year later, the clinic remains closed, and the building is now used to help people file taxes.

After a three day sentencing hearing, the case involving the vandalism and closing of the Flathead Valley’s only clinic to provide abortions came to an end today.

Twenty four year-old Zachary Klundt received a 20-year sentence with 15 years suspended for destroying All Families Healthcare clinic in Kalispell. Klundt will also pay the clinics’ owner, Susan Cahill and other victims over 600,000 dollars in restitution.

Volunteers stand ready to check in the expected 600 visitors at this year's Project Homeless Connect in Kalispell
Corin Cates-Carney

 [Update - 06/18/15:  This is the 5th annual Project Homeless Connect in the Flathead, not the 6th year as we said in an earlier version of the story.]

Hundreds of people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless got some welcome assistance at the Flathead County Fairgrounds Wednesday.

Gov. Bullock was joined by tribal leaders from across Montana as he signed an executive order creating a state office of American Indian Health.
Courtesy Office of the Governor

The lifespan of Montana’s Native Americans is twenty years shorter, on average, than others in the state.  Montana Governor Steve Bullock is launching an effort to close that gap by finding and fixing the shortcomings of the health care system for the state’s Indian population.

Senator Daines' office

In a speech on the Senate floor last week, Montana Senator Steve Daines lambasted President Obama for what he says are huge increases in the price of health insurance in Montana, but he didn't get the facts exactly right.

Montana’s insurance commissioner says she’s not surprised that health insurance companies are asking for rate increases next year of more than 20 to 30 percent. But, she says, those are just requests, and it’ll be at least a couple of months before the actual rates are known.

Two Medicaid Expansion Opponents Named To State Oversight Committee

May 29, 2015

Governor Steve Bullock and Legislative leaders named their picks for the 9-member panel that will oversee the roll-out of Medicaid coverage for Montana’s working poor. The oversight committee includes two opponents of Medicaid Expansion.

Corin Cates-Carney

Public health officials want more people to take the risk of concussions youth sports more seriously.

On Tuesday night, Kalispell Regional Healthcare’s Save the Brain Project tried to get the word out at Somers Middle School.

Fewer than 10 people showed up.

Sen. Jon Tester (D) Montana
Courtesy photo

Senator Jon Tester says the Veterans Administration’s new Choice Card program got off to a  “shaky” start. The Choice Card is a new program that lets veterans use private medical care if their nearest VA facility is too busy or too far away.

Called the Global Burden of Disease study, the monumental effort to understand how we live and how we die has at its center the brilliant, controversial economist and physician Christopher Murray, who has developed an entirely new way of discovering and comparing the worldwide toll of both the things that kill us and those that diminish the quality of our lives. His goal: to enable all of us to live longer and better lives.

An estimated 22 million Americans act as caregivers for someone with a chronic medical condition.  Typically, it’s a son or daughter taking care of an aging parent. It can be rewarding, but often it’s also stressful and draining, especially for caretakers who neglect to take care of themselves.

For the second time in two years, a Missoula hospital is entering a joint venture with a hospital in Billings. Last year, Billings Clinic and a for-profit partner bought Missoula Community Medical center. The new joint venture announced this week isn’t a merger, but it does have Missoula’s other hospital, St Patrick, joining with St. Vincent hospital in Billings.

Montana is making progress toward transitioning some elderly and disabled people out of nursing homes into less restrictive settings. Delegates at the Governor’s Conference on Aging got an update on the nationwide program.

Montana health care providers are paying close attention to a second case of measles that was confirmed this week in Spokane.

Barrett Hospital

Two hospitals in Montana have earned 5-star ratings in patient satisfaction from Medicare. Those hospitals are Barrett Memorial in Dillon, and Great Falls Clinic Medical Center.

U.S. Senator Jon Tester and Veteran’s Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald are on a two-day tour of the state, visiting VA facilities in Helena, Missoula, and Billings.

Tuesday morning they were at Fort Harrison in Helena. McDonald says it’s the 120th VA facility he’s toured since taking over the troubled agency last July. 

McDonald and Tester sat down with about one hundred veterans and active service members, along with representatives of a range of interest groups, for a round-table discussion.

Veterans' Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald is hearing a range of concerns about his agency’s performance on a two-day tour of VA facilities in Montana.

With Senator Jon Tester at his side, VA secretary McDonald listened to representatives of various groups, from mental health advocates to the American Legion, spell out what the VA needs to do to better serve the thousands of veterans across the state. He said the fact that Montana’s VA Health Care System went without a permanent director for eight months is a symptom of the problems his agency is facing.

William Marcus

The issue of health care was in play again today in the Montana Legislature. On the day when three Republican health-care proposals were voted down on the floor of the Montana House, yet another proposal got its first hearing in the Senate Health Committee.

Hacking Rural Medicine

Most of Montana’s hospitals are small and rural. And these are hard times for small town hospitals. The National Rural Health Association says about 300 rural hospitals are in danger of having to close in the next few years.

Monica Bourgeau is an executive with a federally funded project to help Montana hospitals adapt to the rapid changes in healthcare and survive.

"Rural healthcare is really facing a lot of kind of new and unique challenges right now."

GOP Medicaid Expansion Bill On Friday's Legislative Agenda

Mar 19, 2015

A new bill to expand Medicaid in Montana gets its first hearing in the state legislature tomorrow. Republican Ed Buttrey of Great Falls’ bill would expand the health program for the poor, elderly and disabled to an estimated 45,000 Montanans.

Another Medicaid Expansion Plan Introduced At The Montana Legislature

Mar 17, 2015
Sen. Ed Buttrey (R) SD13
Montana Legislature

The latest proposal to expand health insurance coverage for the working poor is scheduled for a legislative hearing Friday.

Chuck Johnson, Sally Mauk and Mike Dennison
Eliza Wiley

This week on "Capitol Talk", Sally, Mike and Chuck cover pre-school education's tough reception at the legislature, the infrastructure funding debate, Medicaid expansion passions, and concealed carry on campus.

"Capitol Talk," our weekly legislative news and analysis program, appears on Fridays throughout the legislative session. MTPR's Sally Mauk is joined by Lee Newspapers reporters Chuck Johnson and Mike Dennison.

Tune in to "Capitol Talk" on your radio every Friday during the session at 6:35 p.m. and again on Sunday at 11:00 a.m.
 

'Catastrophic Health Care Costs' Bill On Friday's Legislative Agenda

Mar 12, 2015
Montana Capitol
William Marcus

Expanding healthcare is on the agenda yet again at the Montana Legislature Friday.

Republican Representative Art Wittich of Bozeman is carrying House Bill 582, and says it’s a part of the Republicans' alternative plans to the governor’s Medicaid expansion.

The Montana House has narrowly approved an updated list of mandatory vaccinations for Montana school students; even though the Senate rejected the House’s attempt to add an exemption for "personal beliefs."

Billings Representative Kathy Kelker, a Democrat, said states that allow children to go unvaccinated because of their parents’ "personal beliefs" have seen tragic results.

"The states who have had it, particularly California, are the ones where we now see outbreaks of epidemics of childhood diseases, the most recent being measles."

TVMT

The House Human Services committee borrowed the old Supreme Court chamber for a hearing on Medicaid expansion that drew an overflow crowd and is expected to run into the evening.

Eric Whitney

Governor Bullock's bill to expand Medicaid gets its first hearing in the state legislature on Friday. Watching closely will be Montana's hospitals.

To understand why, drop by an emergency room at one of Montana's bigger hospitals, like Benefis in Great Falls.

This ER serves about a quarter of the state's population. And 10 to 12 percent of Benefis' patients can't afford to pay their bills. Last year, that added up to $36 million in unpaid bills, or about three times the hospital's profit margin.

Community Medical Center, Missoula, MT
Josh Burnham

Attorney General Tim Fox says he needs more time to analyze how $65 million from the sale of Missoula’s Community Medical Center should be used.

Fox approved the sale itself January 12. Still pending is Community’s proposal for where money from the sale should go.

"Because the proposal was submitted rather late in the process, we felt we did not have sufficient time to review that," said John Barnes, spokesman for the attorney general.

CC-BY-2.0

The acting director of veterans health care in Montana is on the defensive after Senator Jon Tester said the VA health center in Helena is temporarily closing its inpatient mental health unit.

In a letter to VA Secretary Robert McDonald in Washington, Tester said, “staffing levels at the VA in Montana are at the point where it can no longer safely staff the eight bed acute inpatient section of the mental health facility at Ft. Harrison” in Helena.

Johnny Ginnity, acting director at Ft. Harrison says, that doesn’t mean the mental health ward is being closed.

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