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Enrollment in Montana’s expanded Medicaid program is exceeding expectations, and so far has refunded $3 million to the state’s general fund.

That’s according to officials with the state health department who briefed a special expansion oversight committee today.

Montana Capitol.
William Marcus

Tuesday health care officials and lawmakers are meeting in the capitol for a progress report on Medicaid expansion in Montana. Montana’s expansion, also known as the HELP Act, was signed into law just under a year ago.

A Montana Buds medical marijuana sign.
Corin Cates-Carney

Medical marijuana patients and the businesses that serve them are waiting for the next legal turn after a court filing last Friday.

Pills
(PD)

A group of pain patients testifying before state lawmakers Friday says Montana has become a hostile place for people who suffer from chronic pain.

Senator Steve Daines Wednesday criticized the Indian Health Service for what he says is too much spending on administration and not enough on actual health care.

Josh Burnham

In January the Fort Belknap tribal council declared a “state of emergency” over methamphetamine abuse on the reservation. There’s no hard evidence that meth use at Fort Belknap is any more prevalent than other places in Montana. Authorities statewide say they’re seeing a resurgence in meth use and arrests in recent years, after a decline about a decade ago. 

Veterans Choice, file photo.
Courtesy Veterans Administration

A year-old program intended to reform veterans' health care and help veterans get medical appointments more quickly isn’t working. That’s the conclusion of Montana Senator Jon Tester, who helped push the reform through Congress in the first place.

Three Belgrade Students Diagnosed With Mumps

Mar 2, 2016
CDC/ Judy Schmidt

Three students in Belgrade middle and high schools have been diagnosed with the mumps.

A Missoula woman has Montana’s first diagnosed case of the Zika virus.
File Photo(PD)

Audio Pending...

A Missoula woman has Montana’s first diagnosed case of the Zika virus. Missoula City/County Health Department officials say that Zika diagnosis was confirmed on Thursday.

Recruiters representing over 70 employers from across the region visited the University of Montana this week.
Alyssa Grant (CC-BY-NC-ND-2)

Hospitals and clinics across Montana have long had a hard time recruiting doctors and nurses to serve the state’s needs. That can be true of other healthcare professions, too, like therapists, pharmacists and technicians. A new analysis this year says demand for healthcare workers in Montana is going to grow by 40 percent in the next 10 years.

Data Show Mild Flu Season In Montana So Far

Feb 10, 2016
Epidemiologist Karl Milhon says it's never too late to get a flu shot.
James Gathany (PD)

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Montana health officials say flu-related hospitalizations are down 95 percent from the same period last year.

Governor Bullock & Pam Bucy launching the HELP-Link program Feb. 08, 2015 in Great Falls.
Corin Cates-Carney

On Monday, the next phase of Montana’s Medicaid expansion was announced at a job service center in Great Falls. Expanding Medicaid under the Obama Administration’s Affordable Care Act was a hard sell to Montana Republicans in the 2015 legislature until Republican Senator Ed Buttrey introduced a workforce initiative into the healthcare bill, among other changes.

Montana Capitol, Helena.
William Marcus

Montana Legislators are sending a letter to their U.S. congressional delegation urging for changes in federal aviation laws. Montana’s Economic Affairs Interim Committee voted today to send a letter asking Senators Tester and Daines and Congressman Zinke to revise the federal Airline Deregulation Act in order to protect patients from crippling air ambulance bills.

Two bills designed to help protect Montanans from unexpected and exorbitant air ambulance bills get their first hearings at the state legislature Tuesday.
(PD)

Air ambulance and health insurance companies took turns blaming each other Thursday for costly but lifesaving air ambulance flights in Montana. The accusations flew during a legislative committee hearing.

Gov. Bullock was joined by tribal leaders from across Montana as he signed an executive order creating a state office of American Indian Health, June 16, 2015.
Courtesy Office of the Governor

Today the State of Montana posted an ad for a new position in state government looking for a Director of American Indian Health.

Sen. Jon Tester’s staff is on tour around Montana this month to get feedback on the $10 billion Veterans' Choice program.

Daines: VA Doctors Should Be Able To Talk Pot

Jan 27, 2016
Montana lawmakers may have the opportunity to study legalizing recreational marijuana in the next year or so.
(PD)

Senator Steve Daines said today Montana veterans should be able to talk to VA doctors about anything they want, including whether to use medical marijuana.

(PD)

Audio Pending...

Growing demand for healthcare means that Montana is going to need 40 percent more healthcare workers in a decade than it has now. That’s according to University of Montana Economist Bryce Ward. He says that just to meet the projected growth in demand, the state will need 7,000 more healthcare workers by 2025.

Sunday Is The Deadline For Obamacare Enrollment

Jan 26, 2016

  Sunday is the deadline to enroll for health insurance coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act for this year. Some Montanans might find out during this year’s enrollment they are now eligible for coverage under the state’s expanded Medicaid.

Dr. Ira Byock is the Author of "Dying Well", "The Four Things That Matter Most", and "The Best Care Possible".
Courtesy Dr. Ira Byock

A Missoula physician who’s gone on to become a national expert on reforming healthcare — and especially end of life care — is inviting dialog on the topics at an event Tuesday night.

Monica Lindeen, commissioner of securities and insurance, and Democratic candidate for Montana secretary of state.
Courtesy Monica Lindeen

The deadline for buying 2016 health insurance through healthcare.gov is days away. And Montana’s Commissioner of Insurance warns that consumers should study up on the plan they’re thinking about buying, because the wrong plan could result in a fine.

Billings Clinic Launches Statewide Project For Mental Health

Jan 21, 2016
Jackie Yamanaka

Billings Clinic launched a new project in Montana yesterday that will provide peer support to health care providers across the state. This pilot project will start in the area of addictions and behavioral health for the Montana Department of Corrections.

Josh Burnham

If you got a couple dozen of the most powerful and influential health care leaders in Montana together in a room, they'd tell you that, overall, spending on health care here could be a lot more efficient.

That's actually exactly what happened Tuesday in Helena.

Butte is an old mining town, tucked away in the southwest corner of Montana with a population of about 34,000. Locals enjoy many things you can't find elsewhere — campgrounds a quick drive from downtown and gorgeous mountain ranges nearby. But in Butte, as in much of rural America, advanced medical care is absent.

People in Butte who experience serious trauma or need specialty care rely on air ambulance flights to get them the help they need.

Mental health.
Flickr user Publik15 (CC-BY-SA)

Montana lawmakers are working on trying to improve mental health care treatment for young people. One idea they’re looking at would link how much counselors or mental health care providers get paid to how well their patients do.

Billings Clinic purchased a 54 acre plot of land near I-90 in Bozeman last week.
Google Maps

Last week Billings Clinic announced that it has purchased 54 acres of land in Bozeman.

Economist Bryce Ward at the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research said it’s not surprising to see Billings Clinic expanding its presence in Bozeman.

This fall Congress came close to shutting down the government to prevent federal funds from going to Planned Parenthood, perhaps the nation’s largest organization providing women’s health care services, from sex education and health screening, to contraception and abortion. Martha Stahl is president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Montana, she's our guest today on "Home Ground Radio".

Billings Clinic is the biggest hospital company in Montana
Courtesy Billings Clinic

Yesterday Billings Clinic announced that it’s purchased a 54 acre piece of land in Bozeman adjacent to Interstate 90.

Billings Clinic is the biggest hospital company in Montana, operating a 304-bed hospital in Billings, and managing 11 small hospitals in Montana, Wyoming and North Dakota. It’s a non-profit organization, but last year it bought Missoula’s Community hospital in a partnership with a for-profit company based in Tennessee.

Christopher Ebdon (CC-BY-NC-2)

In a big, rural state like Montana, medical care is often far away. And because most hospitals here are small, people who experience serious trauma or need specialty care often have to fly to get it. The cost of that service is really expensive, and sometimes it isn't covered by health insurance.

Senator Jon Tester was in Missoula on Veterans day. He released a report he calls the “State of Veterans in Montana,” that looks at vets’ ability to access Veterans Administration health care. Tester says there are now some more VA clinics in Montana.

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