MTPR

John Doran

Pills, stock photo.
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Montana lawmakers and the state insurance commissioner are targeting a generally hidden part of the healthcare system, with new regulations aimed at bringing down prescription drug costs. Companies in the drug supply chain, and the state’s biggest health insurance company, are fighting back.

At the podium, Julie Kelso, a Billings Clinic psychiatrist, announces the $250,000 donation on Dec. 10, 2018. (L to R) John Doran, BCBS Montana; Eric Arzubi, Billings Clinic psychiatrist; and Jim Ducan, President of Billings Clinic Foundation.
Corin Cates-Carney / MTPR

Montana’s first-ever medical residency program for psychiatrists received a quarter-million-dollar gift Monday. Advocates are hopeful that establishing residencies will grow the number of mental health professionals in the state.

Until recently, Montana was one of only three states in the country without a program to train psychiatrists. The other two, Alaska and Wyoming, are also among the top three places for suicides per capita - Montana is at the top of that list.

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Governor Steve Bullock is creating a bipartisan working-group to develop a plan to reduce premiums for people who buy health insurance on the federal marketplace.

A Montana Healthcare Foundation study found that reinsurance programs insulate insurers from very high claims and save consumers money.

Ongoing budget cuts mean the State of Montana has ended a contract that paid a big health insurance company $6 million a year to manage Medicaid recipients. That’s more than twice as much as it allocates to the state health department for similar work.

It's about one month until open enrollment starts for health insurance plans sold on Healthcare.gov. Yesterday Montana's biggest health insurance company said it won't attempt to adjust its premiums downward for next year.

The three biggest health insurance companies in Montana met with state insurance commissioner Matt Rosendale Wednesday to explain their price increases for 2018.

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Montana’s health insurance companies are asking for rate increases for 2018 ranging from 2 percent to 23 percent. Those numbers released today are much lower than the rate increases for last year, some of which topped 50 percent.

The proposed increases are only for the individual and small group markets. Most Montanans get their health coverage elsewhere, either through their jobs or government programs like Medicaid, Medicare and the Veterans Administration.

As Congress works on overhauling health care, the company with perhaps the most at stake in Montana is Blue Cross and Blue Shield. It's a division of Health Care Service Corporation, which says it's the fourth largest insurance company in America.

Montana Public Radio’s Eric Whitney talked about the changes Congress is proposing with John Doran, a vice president and chief of staff for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana.

Montana Lawmakers Push Bills On Health Costs, Transparency

Apr 17, 2017
Montana Capitol.
William Marcus / Montana Public Radio

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Congress may be undecided about former President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, but Montana lawmakers are pushing through legislation they believe will bring down health care costs and increase price transparency regardless of what happens in Washington.

A half-dozen measures were still alive as the 2017 legislative session enters its final days. They include authorizing a high-risk insurance pool, allowing out-of-state insurers to sell policies in Montana, better informing patients about health care prices and giving tax credits to small companies that offer high-deductible plans to their employees.

A bill to address the high cost of air ambulance rides may not do anything if it passes in the state legislature. Because, as one lawmaker puts it, the proposed legislation may accomplish its goal even before it becomes law.

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