Healthcare news from Montana Public Radio.

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St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula.
Courtesy St. Patrick Hospital

In 2015, the Montana Hospital Association enthusiastically backed Medicaid expansion in Montana. A big reason was that in the first half of the year, they gave away nearly $71 million in free, or “charity” healthcare to people who had no health coverage.

After the legislature narrowly passed Medicaid expansion, Hospital Association President Dick Brown says, "the actual expectation was that charity care would go down, because a lot of the individuals who are now on Medicaid were receiving care at no cost to them, because they couldn’t afford it."

Flu activity in Montana since last October
Montana DPHHS

Five cases of flu have been confirmed in Missoula and Lewis and Clark Counties. These are the first flu cases of the season in Montana.

The Montana Healthcare Foundation says it's making grants available to support better healthcare for people with who have a combination of medical problems, mental illness and/or addiction.

Half a dozen health care systems in Montana are sharing more than $700,000 in grants to make mental or behavioral health care easier to get.

The Montana Healthcare Foundation says it's making the grants to support better healthcare for people who have a combination of medical problems and mental illness and/or addiction. It plans to award more than $3 million to the initiative over the next two years.

  The suicide rate in Montana is nearly twice the national average, and for years, has ranked among the highest in the U.S.

As part of the University of Montana’s Brain Initiative, internationally recognized psychiatrist and researcher Dr. John Rush will speak in Missoula on Wednesday. He’ll deliver a public lecture on why effective treatment for suicidality and depression is still elusive for so many.

Barbara Dryden, center, and Richard Blank, to her left, tell Governor Steve Bullock about the challenges family caregivers face Monday at Missoula Aging Services.
Kim Hutcheson, Missoula Aging Services

Governor Steve Bullock and Democratic State Senator Diane Sands say the state legislature should boost spending on assistance programs for the elderly by $1.6 million.

They made the pitch at a visit to Missoula Aging Services Monday. There, Bullock and Sands heard from people who’ve used the kinds of assistance they want to expand.

Mary Lynne Billy-Old Coyote is the new director of Montana's Office of American Indian Health.
Courtesy Montana DPHHS

In Montana, the life expectancy for Native American people is 19 to 20 years shorter than for whites. The median age at death for Native men here is 56. It's 62 for Native women.

Those statistics, in part, motivated Governor Steve Bullock last year to create a new position in the state health department: Director of American Indian Health.

Veterans Advocate  Joe Parsetich joined Governor Steve Bullock and other dignitaries in Great Falls Sept. 15, to launch an outreach effort encouraging veterans to look into enrolling in Montana's newly-expanded Medicaid program.
Eric Whitney

Governor Steve Bullock says he's making a special effort to reach out to Montana's veterans to encourage them to look into Medicaid health coverage. In Great Falls, leaders of healthcare, veterans and civic groups joined him in doing so Thursday, Sept. 15. 

The Montana Board of Regents is poised to approve a proposal to help nurses with an associate degree (ASN) earn their bachelor of science nurse degree (BSN).

David Trost, president and CEO of St. John’s Lutheran Ministries in Billings, says registered nurses with an ASN have the skills to be excellent nurses.

He says the additional education helps with the transformation taking place in health care.

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.