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Tony Incashola, director of the Selis-Qispe Culture Committee, blessing the construction site of Missoula's new David J. Thatcher VA Clinic, July 10, 2020.
Edward O'Brien / Montana Public Radio

Critics have complained that Western Montana’s veterans have had to make do with an undersized clinic, but that’s about to change. Friday in Missoula was the groundbreaking for a vastly updated outpatient veteran’s clinic in Missoula.

Could a Japanese-style elder care insurance program work in Montana?

Jul 10, 2020

Last week in Graying Pains, the Missoulian’s David Erickson examined the introduction and implementation of Kaigo Hoken, or care insurance, in Japan, the world’s demographically oldest country. This week’s conclusion of that story explores how a similar policy might translate to Montana, the oldest state in the American West.

A full 13% of Montanans are in their 60s, and the “baby boomer” generation is nearing or entering retirement age. Care for the elderly will become an increasingly pressing issue in Montana as larger and larger numbers of voters enter the older brackets of the state’s demographics.

 

Montana health officials announced 80 new cases of the COVID-19 illness July 7, including over 50 cases in Yellowstone County, the majority of which are connected to an assisted living facility in Billings. The new cases break the state’s record for single day total cases reported.

Yellowstone County reported it’s highest single-day tally of lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases July 7 with a total of 55.

Hospital monitor.
Josh Burnham / Montana Public Radio

Kalispell Regional Healthcare is expected to acquire the Marias Medical Center and other facilities in the Shelby area. Toole County commissioners voted to accept a multi-million-dollar deal late last month.

This is part one of a two-part story about financing elder care in aging populations. Part two, "What new strategies could Montana explore?", will be published next week.

Montana, the oldest state in the western United States, faces many of the same problems as Japan, the world’s oldest country. Might there be solutions for Montana from what looks to be a successful experiment enacted two decades ago to help pay for elder care in Japan?

 

U.S. Senator Jon Tester joined other congressional Democrats this week in rebuking the Trump administration's latest attempt to overturn the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. 

The Senate resolution signed by Tester and 46 other Democratic and Independent senators is a direct repreminad of the U.S. Department of Justice’s request last week for the Supreme Court to overturn the Affordable Care Act, or ACA.

In a Facebook town hall meeting Tuesday, Tester said efforts to dismantle the ACA during the novel coronavirus pandemic are "irresponsible and cruel."

St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula.
Courtesy St. Patrick Hospital

On Monday, Montana reported a total of 919 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 56 new cases since Sunday. That’s the biggest one-day spike since the pandemic started in March.

This spike has prompted some hospitals to tighten visitor guidelines.

On June 24, assisted living businesses and workers asked the Montana Legislature to increase payments for day-to-day services for seniors and people with disabilities.
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Gov. Steve Bullock issued a directive Thursday lifting visitor restrictions at assisted living facilities and nursing homes — under strict guidelines.

Gov. Steve Bullock annonces his Coronavirus Task Force on March 3, 2020 in response to the growing number of cases reported in the United States. Bullock says the task force is a multi-agency group that will coordinate public health response.
Corin Cates-Carney / Montana Public Radio

On Wednesday, Gov. Steve Bullock said there is no doubt Montana has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases since moving into Phase 2 of its economic reopening plan in early June.

Montana has reported 766 total known cases. Nearly one-third of those were reported since June 1st. During Wednesday’s press conference, Bullock said 136 people have tested positive for the disease over the past week.

Gov. Steve Bullock talks about Medicaid expansion at a press conference on Jan. 8, 2019.
Shaylee Ragar / UM Legislative News Service

In May, the number of people enrolled in Medicaid expansion in Montana grew by 1,700. It’s the first time in over a year that enrollment numbers in the health coverage program for low income adults increased over the previous month.

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