San Francisco's KQED is one of several public radio stations trying to help people find the best prices for healthcare.

Shopping for health care is kind of like going to a grocery store where there aren’t any price tags. That jar of spaghetti sauce might cost $4, or maybe $50. But in health care you typically don’t find out prices until you get to the checkout counter. People with one kind of card pay one price, those with another pay a different one, and you may do better or worse if you offer cash.

Last year Montana lawmakers, frustrated by how hard it is to shop for the best deal in healthcare, set up a special committee to find solutions. That committee meets for the first time Wednesday.

When low-income people need help getting food stamps, Medicaid and other benefits, they often go to Montana’s public assistance offices. But at the end of this month, more than half of these offices will permanently close because of state budget cuts. This includes one in Livingston, which serves more than 300 people every month.

Late last week Montana’s state health department announced that it’s severing contracts with four non-profit companies that help people with developmental disabilities. That’s due to the reduced state budget enacted by Governor Steve Bullock because of the state bringing in lower than expected revenue.

The health department says the 2,700 clients of those companies who will lose services due to the severed contracts will be taken care of by the department starting this spring.

To learn more about what the cuts mean, MTPR News Director Eric Whitney talked to the CEO of one of the four non-profits.

State budgets.

Private contractors who take care of Montanans with developmental disabilities are losing state contracts due to Montana’s budget woes. This means many case managers across the state are losing their jobs, and small town service providers are grappling with how to provide care on a reduced budget.

Opportunity Resources, Inc.

The state health department is cutting ties at the end of March with private contractors who help people with developmental disabilities.