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Healthcare news from Montana Public Radio.

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Rep. Sharon Greef, Governor Greg Gianforte, and Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen are pictured at the HB 176 bill signing, April 19, 2021.
Gov. Gianforte's office

Gov. Greg Gianforte signed several bills into law this week, including policies to end same-day voting registration and change voter ID requirements; limit local public health powers; expand telehealth access; give businesses tax breaks for vocational training; allow insurance companies to consider gender when setting rates; address the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous people; and update state laws after federal recognition of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians.

Montana Coronavirus And COVID-19 News

Apr 19, 2021
The novel coronavirus.
Centers For Disease Control and Prevention

04/19/21

While active COVID-19 cases in Montana are holding steady at around 1,000 cases, health officials in and around the Greater Gallatin area say new case counts are rising.

"This week Gallatin County has the highest number of cases of COVID in the state and Park County is also seeing new cases almost every day," Park County Health Officer Laurel Desnick said during her latest weekly COVID-19 update April 16.

Veterans Affairs Opens New Health Care Clinic In Helena

Apr 8, 2021

The Montana Veterans Affairs Health Care System opened a new primary care clinic in Helena Tuesday.

The new clinic at Fort Harrison VA Medical Center will serve about 5,000 veterans living in the Helena area, according to a VA press release. The release said the facility came with a $12 million price tag and the roughly 20,000 square feet clinic will provide primary care, mental health treatment and virtual appointments.

Healthcare.gov has opened a special enrollment period starting April 1. Those in need of an Affordable Care Act health plan will be able to enroll through Aug 15.

This special enrollment period includes tax credits from the latest federal pandemic stimulus package, allowing people enrolling in the marketplace to reduce the cost of their insurance plans. 

HELENA - A new bill in the Senate would allow doctors to sell prescriptions directly to their patients, building off legislation passed earlier this month giving providers the option to circumvent insurance companies by creating “direct care agreements.”

Sen. Cary Smith, R-Billings, sponsored both bills. Senate Bill 101, which would allow direct care agreements, is going to the governor’s desk for his signature after a final 33-16 vote in the Senate.

Health care worker holding a clipboard.
iStock

The Montana House of Representatives advanced a bill Wednesday that outlines how patients could pay for medical care directly without health insurance.

Spurred by Pandemic, Little Shell Tribe Fast-Tracks Its Health Service Debut

Feb 22, 2021
Linda Watson, enrollment officer for the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Montana, was the first person to receive a dose from the tribe’s covid-19 vaccine supply.
Kevin Trevellyan / Yellowstone Public Radio

Linda Watson draped a sweater with the words “Little Shell Chippewa Tribe” over her as she received the newly recognized tribal nation’s first dose of covid-19 vaccine.

“I wanted to show my pride in being a Little Shell member,” Watson, 72, said. “The Little Shell are doing very good things for the people.”

Marilyn Bartlett might be the closest thing health policy has to a folk hero. A certified public accountant who barely tops five feet, Bartlett bears zero resemblance to Paul Bunyan. But she did take an ax to Montana’s hospital prices in 2016, stopping the state’s employee health plan from bleeding money.

“Marilyn is not a physically imposing person,” said Montana Board of Investments Executive Director Dan Villa, who worked closely with Bartlett in state government. “She is a blend of your favorite aunt, an accounting savant and a little bit of July Fourth fireworks.”

Montana Lawmaker Introduces Direct Patient Care Bill

Jan 21, 2021

A Montana state lawmaker today introduced a bill that would formalize a patient’s ability to directly pay a doctor for care without insurance. Similar bills have been vetoed in the past.

Republican Sen. Cary Smith of Billings told the Senate Business, Labor and Economic Affairs Committee that direct patient care lowers provider overhead costs and simplifies the health care experience by sidestepping insurance companies, and state and federal regulations.

Rep. Matt Regier (R) - HD4
Montna Legislature

Montana lawmakers heard two more bills on Wednesday that were aimed at changing how the state regulates abortion.

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