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Healthcare news from Montana Public Radio.

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Greg Gianforte, Rob Quist and Mark Wicks at the MTN News debate April 29, 2017.
Screen capture courtesy MTN News

Mark Wicks, the Libertarian candidate for Montana’s U.S. House seat, got statewide exposure in the race’s only televised debate Friday, produced and broadcast by MTN News.

"We’ve been doing the same thing over and over and over, and we get the same result: People back in Washington that aren’t doing what they’re supposed to because they’re beholden to special interests, they’re taking lobbyist money. I’m not beholden to any of that." Wicks said during the debate.

Sheila Hogan is director of Montana's Department of Public Health and Human Services
State of Montana

The head of Montana's health department says she is, quote, “disappointed” to learn of the resignation of American Indian Health Director Mary Lynn-Billy Old Coyote.

Billy-Old Coyote submitted her resignation letter Saturday, a little more than a year after she was appointed to the newly created position by Governor Steve Bullock.

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

Montana's first-ever director of American Indian Health says she thinks state government lacks the commitment for her to do meaningful work, and is resigning.

Mary Lynn Billy-Old Coyote was appointed by Governor Steve Bullock in March of 2016. She submitted her resignation Saturday.

It's a fix that hasn't fixed much, but the troubled Veterans Choice program has been extended anyway.

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump signed a bill extending the program intended to speed veterans' access to health care beyond its original August end point.

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.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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.

Montana’s top insurance regulator is promoting a new healthcare coverage option that he doesn’t regulate.

It's called Medi-Share, and is run by a Christian non-profit in Florida that markets it as a ministry where members pay into accounts that are used to pay medical bills for other members.

 Montana’s Spending on substance use disorder treatment by funding source, fiscal year 2016
Montana Healthcare Foundation

There’s long been an imbalance in the number of Montanans who need help beating alcoholism and drug abuse and the amount of treatment programs available.

Lately, those consequences are showing up in the state’s foster care system. The number of children needing care due to drug use problems in their parents has doubled since 2010, and the number of babies born drug-affected has tripled since then.

Those numbers are from a new report by the Montana Healthcare Foundation, which also says the state now has a golden opportunity to dramatically increase the availability of drug and alcohol treatment services.

Veterans Choice, file photo.
Courtesy Veterans Administration

Senator Jon Tester says he'll push for an extension of the troubled Veterans Choice healthcare program on the Senate floor Thursday.

Tester is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Veterans Affairs committee. He co-sponsored the original, bi-partisan Veterans Choice bill in 2014. It was a $10 billion response to revelations that some veterans were being harmed by having to wait for long periods to get healthcare through the VA.

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