Top Medicaid and Abortion Health Agenda for Montana Legislators

Helena, Mont. — Montana lawmakers said reducing costs and expanding patient access will be their top health care goals in the new legislative session. But they will also face implementing changes to Medicaid, a management crisis at Montana State Hospital and proposals to regulate abortion.

Republicans, who hold a veto majority, said they would focus on three areas of healthcare: transparency, cost and patient choices.

Senate Republican spokesman Kyle Schmauch said party leaders aim to continue “small tit-for-tat to get the ball on track in the right direction on those three big things.”

Democrats, who are in the minority and need Republican help to pass their bills, have identified health care cost reductions, Medicaid coverage protections and rights protections. reproductive freedom is their priority.

As Montana’s 90-day session enters its second week, here are some of the top health issues on the agenda:

Expand patient access

Expanding telehealth and making it easier for qualified providers from out of state to practice in Montana are two ways Republican Governor Greg Gianforte proposed, said spokeswoman Brooke Stroyke. to improve access to health care.

House Speaker Matt Regier (R-Kalispell) agrees that telehealth is key to improving access. Republicans plan to build on a The law was passed in the 2021 session that has made some emergency regulations caused by the pandemic permanent, loosening restrictions on telehealth.

Schmauch said lawmakers will consider spending proposals to expand Montana’s broadband access to make telehealth a viable option for more people, particularly are rural residents.

Other proposals to offer rural patients with limited access to care, Schmauch said, would have more options, such as allowing doctors to dispense prescriptions to patients. and allows pharmacists to prescribe certain medications.

Medical allowance

Eleven nursing homes in Montana have announced their closures by 2022, with officials citing staff shortages and low Medicaid reimbursement rates as key reasons for the industry’s ongoing difficulties.

Lawmakers will debate increasing reimbursement rates for nursing homes and many other types of health providers after a study commissioned by the state find they are too low to cover the cost of care.

“Increase the supplier ratio at the level recommended by the study,” said Heather O’Loughlin, executive director of the Montana Center for Budget and Policy, a nonprofit that specializes in state budget analysis. Research will ensure a robust health care workforce and should be a priority for this legislature. taxes, and the economy.

Gianforte’s budget proposal includes an increase in the return rate which fell short about what the study suggests. A bill by Congresswoman Mary Caferro (D-Helena) would base the provider rate on the results of the study.

Federal rules state that anyone enrolled in Medicaid cannot be removed from the program during a public health emergency. But shopping billionsI have just passed Congress allowing states to begin reviewing the eligibility of their beneficiaries in April, and millions of people across America there is a risk of losing coverage as a result.

“That would have the inherent result of weeding out people who qualify for Medicaid but because the process is so complicated they lose it,” Caferro said.

Caferro said she plans to introduce legislation that restores 12-month continuous eligibility for adults enrolled in Medicaid Montana. The measure is likely to be opposed by legislative Republicans and Gianforte, who co-sign a letter with President Joe Biden in December saying that the public health emergency had artificially inflated the Medicaid population.

Montana State Hospital

Montana State Hospital lost federal certification after a series injury and deathmade mental hospital management and the availability of behavioral health services a top priority of the session.

Stroyke said Gianforte’s two-year budget plan is a starting point for legislative budget writers, including $300 million for state hospitals and to expand access to health care. intensive behavior across the state.

Lawmakers are considering measures that could shift care for some patients from state-run hospitals to community-based health services. Regier said shifting more public health services from state agencies to community service providers would relieve some of the strain on facilities like Montana State Hospital.


Lawmakers on both sides have filed more than a dozen requests for draft legislation related to abortion. A Regier word would limit the type of abortion that can be performed in the state, and at the other end of the debate, a proposal by Senator Ryan Lynch (D-Butte) would codify access to abortion pregnancy in state law. The recent Gianforte administration also proposed administrative regulations that would make it more difficult for women to get a Medicaid-covered abortion.

But a majority of Republicans are restrained from enacting sweeping abortion bans following the US Supreme Court’s 2022 subversion Roe sues Wade. That’s because a 1999 Montana Supreme Court ruling defined the state’s constitutional right to privacy protections to include access to abortion. the state is find a way to overturn that precedent after a judge blocked three anti-abortion laws passed by the 2021 legislature.

hospital supervision

Lawmakers will also consider proposals increased monitoring of how nonprofit hospitals report community benefits.

State health officials wanted standard setting for charitable contributions that hospitals make in exchange for their tax-free status. A KHN investigation found that Montana’s nonprofit hospitals spent about 8% of their total annual costs on charitable grants in 2019, well below the national average.

Keely Larson is a KHN member of the UM Legislative News Service, a partner of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Press Association, and Kaiser Health News. Larson is a graduate student in environmental and natural resource journalism at the University of Montana.


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