Montana Public Radio

state budget

Many of Montana’s poorest and most vulnerable people — and the health care providers who serve them — are anxiously awaiting news from Governor Steve Bullock this week. Bullock is expected to release his plan to restore some funding to health programs for the state’s poor and disabled that have been devastated by budget cuts over the last year.

MTPR Capitol Reporter Corin Cates-Carney is here now to talk about the upcoming announcement.

More details on Governor Steve Bullock’s plan to restore parts of the state budget are expected this week.

On Tuesday, the state health department says it will issue a new rule that will restore a nearly 3 percent cut to how much it pays doctors, clinics and other health care providers who see Medicaid patients, retroactive to July 1 of this year. That’s two months ahead of when the department initially said providers could expect that rate restoration.

Corin Cates-Carney

State budget director Dan Villa will leave that position in about five weeks to become the next executive director of the Montana Board of Investments.

The Sunburst office in Eureka
sunburstfoundation.org

The state health department is figuring out how to restore funding to health care providers who take Medicaid, but it may be too late for people in Libby and Eureka who need help with mental health.

"I don’t think we’ll be able to keep those offices open," Megan Bailey, a therapist with Sunburst Mental Health told a legislative committee Monday.

State Budget Director Dan Villa and State Health Department Director Sheila Hogan hear input on how to allocate $45 million in restored state funding at a listening session in Helena, MT August 1, 2018.
Eric Whitney / MTPR

"This has been a very difficult year," says Sheila Hogan, director of Montana's state health department.

She was talking to hundreds of people online and in a hotel ballroom in Helena who were not shy about telling her just how tough their year has been. They were people impacted by a nearly three percent cut in payments to people and organizations that help Montanans on Medicaid.

More than 40 people came to the DPHHS hearing on Medicaid cuts Feb. 1, 2018 in Helena.
Corin Cates-Carney / MTPR

Now that improved state revenues mean that more than $45 million is being restored to state agencies, the directors for the state budget and health departments are meeting with health care providers to talk specifics.

Montana Health Providers Cheer Budget Restorations, But Say Damage Is Done

Jul 26, 2018

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana health service organizations that eliminated staff and services amid state budget cuts cheered Thursday after Gov. Steve Bullock announced that funding will be partially restored, but they say that long-term damage already has been done.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney talk with reporters in the State Capitol about state budget cuts, July 25, 2018.
Corin Cates-Carney / Montana Public Radio

Governor Steve Bullock says state agencies will soon see some of the more than $70 million in state budget cuts made during last November’s special session restored, because state revenues have bounced back.

“As we close the fiscal year we find that we’ll have the ability to put about $45 million to restore some of the cuts that occurred,” Bullock said.

the 2017 Rice Ridge Fire near Seeley Lake
Inciweb

The State’s fire fighting savings account started this month with the second lowest balance since it was created a decade ago.

There’s only about $4 million in the fund’s reserves for this fire season. That’s about a fifth of what the state needs to cover an average fire season bill.

Cash register.
(PD)

Late last year Montana lawmakers carved about $170 million from state spending. That led to big cuts – for example, the state health department lost 4.5 percent of its budget, which slashed critical services for some of Montana’s most vulnerable.

Would a new revenue source, such as a sales tax, help prevent future budget crises?

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