health insurance

Billings Crowd Urges Approval Of Montana Medicaid Expansion Waivers

Aug 19, 2015
Tuesday's meeting in Billings on Montana's Medicaid expansion waivers drew about 80 people.
Jackie Yamanaka - Yellowstone Public Radio

Nearly 80 people turned out for a public meeting in Billings Tuesday afternoon on the state of Montana’s proposed waiver request for its Medicaid expansion program.

As Jackie Yamanaka reports, all of the two dozen people who offered comments want the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to approve Montana’s two waivers.

Medicare Turns 50 But Big Challenges Await

Jul 31, 2015
Harry Truman's application for Medicare
Courtesy of Truman Library

Medicare, the federal health insurance program for the elderly and disabled, has come a long way since its creation in 1965 when nearly half of all seniors were uninsured. Now, the program covers 55 million people, providing insurance to one in six Americans. With that in mind, Medicare faces a host of challenges in the decades to come. Here’s a look at some of them.

Health centers like Missoula's Partnership Health Center hope Medicaid expansion will bring more financial certainty.
Josh Burnham

Montana’s legislature said yes to Medicaid expansion this spring, but the state’s expansion plan still needs approval by the federal government.

Today, the state made the details of its expansion plan public, and is giving the public 60 days to comment on the plan before sending it to the White House.

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.

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.

Gov. Bullock signs the Medicaid expansion plan into law on April 29 at the captiol. The bill's sponsor Sen. Ed Buttrey, and supporter Stephanie Wallace look on.
Steve Jess

Backers of Medicaid expansion celebrated in Helena today as Governor Bullock signed the bill extending the health coverage to an estimated 45,000 more Montanans.

Legislative Roundup: Medicaid Expansion, State Budget Advance

Apr 12, 2015
From left, House Speaker Austin Knudsen, R-Culbertson, Rep. Jeff Essmann, R-Billings, and Minority Leader Chuck Hunter, D-Helena, debate rules on the House floor April 8.
Michael Wright - UM Community News Service

After wrangling over rules, the last remaining bill to expand Medicaid at the 64th Montana Legislature appears to be headed to the governor’s desk.

    

Supporters of Medicaid expansion for low-income Montanans are celebrating a major victory tonight, after the House approved the controversial bill.

Medicaid Expansion Bill Survives Another Day

Apr 8, 2015

Democrats won their fight to bring a Medicaid expansion bill to the House floor for debate.  It came with help from 11 Republicans Representatives.

Sen. Ed Buttrey (R) SD13
Montana Legislature

Tuesday brings a crucial test for Medicaid expansion in Montana. Republican Senator Ed Buttrey’s bill to offer the government-funded health coverage to about 70,000 more Montanans faces a hearing before the same committee that killed a similar proposal by Democratic Governor Steve Bullock.

Health insurance plans in Montana would have to offer some policies that didn’t cover abortion services, under a bill heard today in a House Committee.

The bill would guarantee that customers who didn’t want their premiums going to pay for abortions could choose a policy from any provider on the insurance exchange that was abortion-free, except for cases of rape, incest, or a threat to the mother’s life, cases where the law requires all policies to cover abortion. That drew objections from several advocacy groups.

Medicaid Expansion Compromise Clears Montana Senate

Mar 30, 2015
William Marcus

Senator Ed Buttrey says he's pleased his bill to extend Medicaid coverage to the state's working poor won final approval in the Senate.

For Senator Buttrey, Medicaid Expansion Is A Riddle And A Risk

Mar 25, 2015
Sen. Ed Buttrey (R) SD13
Montana Legislature

Middle ground on Medicaid expansion eluded the Montana Legislature in 2013, and since then Senator Ed Buttrey, R-Great Falls, has studied the issue, talked to hospitals and members of the other party and others to get to where he was last week: standing in front of the Senate Public Health, Welfare and Safety Committee.

The lone surviving bill seeking to expand Medicaid coverage to the working poor will have another hearing tomorrow at the Montana Legislature.

This action comes on the heels of the bill stalling last night in the Senate Public Health Committee.

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.

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.

'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.

Insure Montana Program Seeks State Funds To Continue Operation

Mar 10, 2015
William Marcus

A made-in Montana health insurance program aimed at helping small businesses cover their employees is seeking money from the general fund to continue operation.

Some members of the Senate Finance Committee question the expenditure since these workers could also get insurance under the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Insure Montana was created before the ACA became law. The intent was to help small businesses in Montana, initially those with nine or fewer employees, provide health insurance for their workers.

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.

Nathan Kosted

Governor Steve Bullock’s Medicaid expansion plan gets its first hearing at the state legislature Friday, and that has groups for and against it trying to rally support.

The Koch brothers-funded group Americans For Prosperity, or AFP, unveiled new broadcast ads targeting Montana Republican representatives.

Kaiser Family Foundation

Montana is doing a better job than most states at getting people signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

A new analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that 45 percent of Montanans who are eligible to buy insurance had done so, as of February 15. Those eligible to buy insurance are generally anyone who doesn’t already have coverage through their job, a spouse or a government program like Medicare or Medicaid.

Rep. Nancy Ballance (R) HD87
Montana Legislature

Montana lawmakers took testimony Wednesday on the first of several bills designed to expand healthcare coverage in Montana without the full-scale Medicaid expansion Governor Steve Bullock is proposing.

Republican Medicaid Bill On Wednesday's Legislative Agenda

Feb 17, 2015
Montana Capitol
William Marcus

Wednesday at the Montana legislature, the Republicans lay out the start of their own version of Medicaid expansion. Republican Representative Nancy Ballance is carrying House Bill 455, which would extend state insurance coverage to people with disabilities, low-income parents and veterans.

She says this would only include about 10,000 of the approximate 70,000 Montanans without insurance, because she says many of those people are “working-age adults with no kids and no disabilities.”

This is the last week for Montanans to shop for health insurance on HealthCare.gov. The deadline is Sunday, February 15. And it’s a hard deadline, says Jeff Hinson, with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"They will not be able to enroll after the 15th, unless they have a life-changing event."

A life-changing event is something like leaving a job with insurance benefits, getting married or divorced, or having child.

There are about three percent fewer Montanans without health insurance thanks to the Affordable Care Act. That’s according to University of Montana Economist Bryce Ward. He says the ACA is responsible for even bigger drops in the number of uninsured in other states.

"If the ACA stays around, we expect to continue to see the share of people without health insurance declining over the next few years."

Courtesy Partnership Health Center

An important deadline is fast approaching for those who want an Affordable Care Act health plan that takes effect on January first. Applicants must be enrolled by the end of business on Monday, December 15.

Those who've already signed up, but want to make last minute changes, face the same deadline.

Partnership Health Center's Sandra Mytty says she and her staff have helped lots of people in the Missoula area select policies.

"We're actually doing really well. Since we started we've helped over 350 people since November 15 and we're still going."

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana is paying $1 million to the state to settle more than three hundred consumer complaints.

State Insurance Commissioner Monica Lindeen says the complaints mostly came from people who bought policies on the new health insurance exchange last year. Lindeen says every insurance company had problems with the rollout, but the problems with Blue Cross-Blue Shield were extreme.

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