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Health care reforms benefitting Montanans

| May 25, 2022 12:00 AM

The 2021 Montana Legislature passed major health care reforms to empower patients, reduce red tape for doctors, and provide access to more affordable care. We’re now seeing those changes have a major positive impact, and as the sponsors of the bills enabling this progress, we couldn’t be more excited.

The bills we passed expanded telehealth, protected Direct Patient Care, and allowed doctors to dispense medicine to their patients. Importantly, all three bills followed conservative principles, creating access to better health care by getting government out of the way, not spending more tax money or issuing more mandates.

House Bill 43 greatly expanded the ability of all types of providers to provide telehealth in Montana. It took several government restrictions that were temporarily waived during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic and made them permanent. HB 43 was a massive regulatory reform, yet it was so common sense that it passed the Legislature unanimously at every step of the process. The results have been no less impressive. According to one study, behavioral telehealth visits have increased 2,817% since 2019. Telehealth is enabling innovative mental health services in Montana’s rural agricultural communities and reducing costs, travel requirements, and time associated with in-person doctor visits.

A recent analysis by the Frontier Institute highlights the impact another free-market health care reform is having. Senate Bill 101 provided legal clarity to Montana’s Direct Patient Care providers. DPC is a system where patients pay their medical providers directly for health care services instead of going through insurance companies. DPC is usually much more affordable to the patient and frees up the doctor’s time to provide more personalized care and less time dealing with paperwork.

Thanks to SB 101, the number of DPC providers in Montana has doubled since last year. At least 16 DPC clinics are now providing an estimated 5,000 Montanans with services ranging from primary care to personalized diabetes management to prescriptions. The average cost of DPC comprehensive primary care is only $77 per month and all the prices are transparent and known ahead of time.

The third reform, Senate Bill 374, allows medical providers to dispense prescription medications to their patients in accordance with their scope of practice and pharmacy board guidelines. The new law gives Montanans more convenient options to shop for and receive their medications.

All three of these major reforms are empowering Montanans with more freedom to manage their health, access services, and save money. This is happening without spending taxpayer money or issuing top-down mandates, but instead by simply allowing doctors to serve the needs of their patients with less paperwork and without needless regulations. One year after we passed these bills, that’s something to celebrate.

Sen. Cary Smith, R-Billings, is the Senate Majority Leader and sponsor of SB 101 and SB 374. Rep. Rhonda Knudsen, R-Culbertson, is the sponsor of HB 43.

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