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Healthcare

Healthcare news from Montana Public Radio.

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U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-MT) says the U.S. Senate needs to do its job and pass a bill on health care. This on the news that the Senate Majority Leader plans to hold a vote next week even though it is unclear as of Friday what lawmakers will be voting on.

Dr. Shawna Yates is Medical Director of the Southwest Montana Community Health Center
Corin Cates-Carney

As the nation faces an epidemic of opioid drug abuse after a decade of aggressively prescribing narcotics , Montana doctors are becoming more cautious about giving painkillers to chronic pain patients.

It’s changing some patients ability to get treatment and what is considered compassionate care for chronic pain.

Corin Cates-Carney

Doctors in Montana are cutting down on the amount of painkillers they’re prescribing in response to the nationwide epidemic of opioid abuse, and that’s having some unintended consequences.

(PD)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he’ll have an updated health care bill ready Thursday for the legislative body to work on.

In a press call with reporters, Montana’s Democratic  Senator Jon Tester said he’s willing to work with Republicans on compromise health care legislation.

This week, Republicans in Congress will try to rally votes behind a bill that proposes major changes to the way Americans get health care and how much they pay. In Montana, many tens of thousands could be affected. Use this Q&A to explore how the bill would affect you.

Laura Terrill, with Planned Parenthood of Montana, and John Goodnow, CEO of Benefis Health Systems were among the panelists critical of Senate health care bill in Helena Thursday July, 6.
Eric Whitney

Leaders of Montana doctors, nurses and hospital groups today spoke out against the health care bill being proposed by Senate Republicans.

John Goodnow is the CEO of Benefis, Montana's second largest hospital system, based in Great Falls. And he's no fan of the health care bill the House passed in May. Nor does he like the Senate's proposed changes to it.

Benefis Hospital in Great Falls, MT.
Eric Whitney

Nurses, hospitals and other health care providers are holding a public forum on the proposed Senate health care bill Thursday, July 6 in Helena. It’s being put on by the Montana Nurses Association.

Commentary: Fight For What Really Matters

Jul 3, 2017

Too often, policy debates in Washington, D.C. devolve into partisan fistfights. Each side becomes so focused on landing a punch that they forget why they climbed into the ring in the first place.

Just a few years ago, one in five Montanans did not have access to health insurance, and people couldn’t afford to get sick.

Montana Insurers Propose Rate Increases From 2 - 23 Percent
(PD)

Montana lawmakers are making plans to research statewide health concerns ahead of the next legislative session. But those plans could be upended this summer depending on actions in Washington D.C. amid the Trump administration’s push to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

New Rehab Hospital To Open In Billings

Jun 29, 2017

Patients who are recovering from ailments like a stroke, spinal cord injury, or traumatic brain injury will soon be able to continue their rehabilitation care closer to home.  Three health care entities announced yesterday they’re partnering to build and operate a rehabilitation hospital in Billings.

Sen. Steve Daines during a June 28 telephone town hall meeting on healthcare.
Courtesy Steve Daines.

Senator Steve Daines says he wants to hear from Montanans before deciding how he’ll vote on the Republican health care proposal currently stalled in the U.S. Senate.

And hear from them, Daines did Wednesday night during his 17th live healthcare tele-town hall meeting.

Daines faced an earnest and sometimes feisty series of questions from Montanans trying to make sense of the complicated healthcare debate:

Democratic Senator Jon Tester held a digital town hall Tuesday night to answer questions about the Republican health care proposal awaiting action in the U.S. Senate.

The hour long Facebook live event came hours after Senate Republican leaders announced a delay on the vote for their long-awaited plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare”. 

Senate Republicans issued a revised version of their health care bill Monday.

The U.S. Senate’s original health care bill released last week did not penalize anyone who let their insurance lapse. Under the new package introduced Monday, anyone lacking coverage for at least 63 days in the past year and who then buys a policy would face a six-month delay before it takes effect. 

Montana Republican Senator Steve Daines says the Senate’s draft bill needed that kind of incentive:

Sen. Steve Daines.
Courtesy photo

Montana’s Republican U.S. Senator says that while he has not yet decided if he’ll support the Senate health care bill, one issue would be deal breaker for him.

As written, the Senate health care bill de-funds Planned Parenthood for one year.

And that’s just fine with Montana’s Republican and pro-life U.S. Senator Steve Daines:        

Josh Burnham

Both of Montana’s senators will host virtual town halls this week ahead of the U.S. Senate vote on its version of a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

As Congress works on overhauling health care, the company with perhaps the most at stake in Montana is Blue Cross and Blue Shield. It's a division of Health Care Service Corporation, which says it's the fourth largest insurance company in America.

Montana Public Radio’s Eric Whitney talked about the changes Congress is proposing with John Doran, a vice president and chief of staff for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana.

CHART: Who Wins, Who Loses With Senate Health Care Bill

Jun 22, 2017

Senate Republicans on Thursday unveiled their plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act — also known as Obamacare. The long-awaited plan marks a big step toward achieving one of the Republican Party's major goals.

Greg Gianforte during his swearing in to the U.S. House, Wednesday, June 21, 2017.
CSPAN

Greg Gianforte was officially sworn in as Montana's sole representative in the U.S. House Wednesday.
 
The Republican entrepreneur from Bozeman takes office less than two weeks after pleading guilty to misdemeanor assault for attacking Guardian Reporter Ben Jacobs the evening before in-person voting began in Montana’s special election May 25.

In an interview with MTPR after being sworn in, Gianforte said again that he wants to put the assault behind him.

The public may get a look at a draft of the Senate healthcare bill for the first time this week. What’s it mean for Montana? Here's what the CEO of one health insurance company based in Helena says about it:

"I don't think that their plan is going to improve health care in the state of Montana. I think just the opposite is going to happen. And I think, I really do think a lot of people are going to get hurt."

Part of the collapsed deck at the Glacier Presbyterian Camp near Lakeside, MT.
Nicky Ouellet

Two of the people who were critically injured when a deck collapsed at a church camp on the west side of Flathead Lake Saturday are now classified as in good condition at Kalispell Regional Medical Center.

Pacific Source Health
Pacific Source Health website

Insurance companies in Montana last week filed their proposed prices for 2018. They send them to the state insurance commissioner for review and generally don't reveal what they plan to charge until after the commissioner has had a chance to look at their proposals. Setting prices is particularly challenging when Congress is at work on a replacement for the Affordable Care Act.

Montana Insurers Propose Rate Increases From 2 - 23 Percent
(PD)

More than 70,000 Montanans would lose health coverage under the health care bill being considered by Congress, and the state would lose $4.8 billion in federal funding.

Senator Daines Urged To Protect Medicaid

Jun 6, 2017
Naomi Gerheim spoke at the event Tuesday
Edward O'Brien

About fifty people gathered Tuesday at the Missoula office of Montana Senator Steve Daines. Their message was loud and clear.

Senator Jon Tester listens to Barb Korenberg from Missoula Skin Care Center at a veterans health care forum in Missoula Wednesday, May 31, 2017.
Eric Whitney

The Veterans health system in Montana is preparing to roll out a new effort aimed at fixing problems with the troubled “Veterans Choice” program.

Choice, launched by Congress in 2014, was supposed to help vets who live far from from VA facilities, or who have waited more than 30 days for care, get appointments in the private sector faster. It has been called a failure by many, although some vets have reported that Choice has improved their care.

Gov. Steve Bullock. File photo.
Corin Cates-Carney

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Gov. Steve Bullock has rejected five more bills, including one he said was a well-intentioned effort to bring more transparency to healthcare prices but would have done little to drive down costs.

Two-year-old Serenity, who’s nickname is Blueberry, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma.
Rainie Bunn

Healthcare is very much in the news these days, mostly the political news. But we recently got a phone call from a Montana mom that reminds us what healthcare is really all about.

Her name is Rainie Bunn. She’s from Forsyth, and has three little girls; a set of twins and a two-year-old named Serenity, who’s nickname is Blueberry.

"In the end of October last year, Blueberry just woke up with a black eye one day," Bunn told me.

Many Democrats are hoping the GOP health care bill that narrowly passed the U.S. House of Representatives is going to push political momentum their way, and result in big gains in the 2018 midterm elections. A special election next week in Montana may be an early test for this theory.

Libertarian candidate for U.S. House Mark Wicks (L) was in Kalispell last weekend inviting his supporters to show off their "ugly trucks."
NIcky Ouellet

Democratic U.S. House candidate Rob Quist rallied supporters in Kalispell this weekend with the help of Senator Jon Tester. Libertarian candidate Mark Wicks was in Kalispell too, inviting his backers to show off their ugly trucks. Nicky Ouellet reports.

Sally Mauk: Welcome to "Capitol Talk," our weekly political analysis program. I'm Sally Mauk And I'm joined by veteran capitol reporter Chuck Johnson and University of Montana political science professor Rob Saldin.

SM: And Rob two new polls show the House race between Greg Gianforte and Rob Quist is narrowing from double digits to within six to eight points with Gianforte still leading but is getting closer what's going on do you think?

Rob Quist held a roundtable on women’s health with current and former state lawmakers in Missoula, May 12, 2017.
Eric Whitney

On the day Republican candidate Greg Gianforte was grabbing headlines around Billings because of Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to the state, Democrat Rob Quist was at a low key event in Missoula.

Quist held a roundtable on women’s health with current and former state lawmakers Marilyn Ryan, Ellie Boldman-Hill Smith and Carol Williams, as well as Dr. Joey Banks from Blue Mountain Clinic, and Stacie Anderson, who is on the board of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Montana.

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