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Healthcare news from Montana Public Radio.

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Bob Mason and his dog Sophie.
courtesy

When Bob Mason decided to end his life with a self-inflicted gunshot, his pain helped him pull the trigger.

Mason died in January. He was 67 years old. His daughter, Shane Mieski, says her father had been without pain-killing drugs for about a week when he died.

Kathy Snook, Terri Anderson and Gary Snook waiting in Dr. Forest Tennant’s office in West Covina, California.
Corin Cates-Carney

Over the past two decades, the rate of overdose deaths from prescription painkillers known as opioids has quadrupled in the United States. Federal authorities say 78 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. Health care officials in Montana report that the abuse here is worse than the national average. But the casualties of the opioid epidemic are not all addicts and drug abusers.

Mineral County Hospital representatives say the hospital has not been paid for services delivered under the Veterans Choice program.
Courtesy Mineral County Hospital

This week we’re reporting on a year-old program for veterans that’s supposed to make it easier for them to get health care. It’s called Veterans Choice, and yesterday we heard widespread agreement that it’s not working as Congress intended. Frustration with Veterans Choice in Montana became evident in February, when Senator Jon Tester held 28 meetings across the state to get vets' feedback on it.

Veterans Choice, file photo.
Courtesy Veterans Administration

Two years ago news broke about a scandal at the Veterans Administration hospital in Phoenix. Congressional investigators found that the hospital was covering up the lengthy waiting times that veterans faced trying to see doctors. There’s evidence that 40 veterans, maybe more, died while waiting for medical appointments.

In an effort to control prices on air ambulance rides in Montana, lawmakers are considering urging Congress to revise the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978.
Christopher Ebdon (CC-BY-NC-SA)

An attempt to regulate air ambulance services supported by Democratic Senator Jon Tester struck out in the U.S. Senate Thursday.

In an effort to control prices on air ambulance rides in Montana, lawmakers are considering urging Congress to revise the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978.
Christopher Ebdon (CC-BY-NC-SA)

Federal aviation laws up for review in the U.S. Senate could change the way states regulate air ambulances.

In an effort to control prices on air ambulance rides in Montana, lawmakers are considering urging Congress to revise the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978.
Christopher Ebdon (CC-BY-NC-SA)

Montana policymakers looking to protect consumers from giant bills for air ambulance service are taking a close look at North Dakota’s attempt. North Dakota’s law was struck down by a federal judge last month.

CC-BY-2.0

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is opening a Vet Center this fall in Helena. Unlike larger VA medical clinics, Vet Centers only counsel returning combat veterans and military sexual trauma victims.

Montana Public Schools have received a $100,000 grant to help health sciences programs in schools. The grant will focus on getting students in rural areas and reservations a clearer path to careers in health sciences.

Consumer Reports gave Montana poor marks for not using simple language to get more information about doctors.

Lisa McGiffert is the Director of Consumer Reports' Safe Patient Project. Her complaint is with terminology on the Montana Board of Medical Examiner website.

“The terms on that page are licensee search as opposed to something real simple like find your doctor or look up your doctor,” said McGiffert.

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