Healthcare worker fees remain in limbo

This story is from MT Summarya weekly newsletter summary containing original reports and analysis published every Friday.


Since lawmakers packed up and left Helena earlier this month, health and social care providers have been waiting for their hard-fought policy issue to bear fruit: a historic increase in state reimbursements for Medicaid services , including assisted living care for older adults, home support for people with disabilities, and mental health and addiction care.

In total, Republicans and Democrats have approved about $330 million in new state and federal funds to support Medicaid rate hikes, according to Rep. Bob Keenan, R-Bigfork, chair of the health care budget subcommittee. Providers celebrated that, over the two-year period, adjusted rates will meet 100 percent of the benchmarks identified by a 2022 state-commissioned study.

It is often said that nothing is dead until sine die, the official motion to end the legislative session. But when it comes to the budget, nothing on vendor rates will be official until House Bill 2 is signed by Governor Greg Gianforte and the new rates have an effective date on the calendar.

I appreciate the work of our Legislature regarding the funding of home and community Medicaid services. I trust that the governor and our [state health department] understand the behavioral health pressures on our communities and will do what is right for Montana.

Matt Bugni, CEO of Anaconda provider AWARE

Weeks have passed without that long-awaited signature. Anxiety among vendors, once described by the Montana Free Press as cautious optimism, has only increased. Then on Thursday, MTFP reported that Senate Majority Leader Steve Fitzpatrick, R-Great Falls, asked the governor in a May 18 letter to consider a $15 million adjustment to Medicaid rates on the grounds of frugality. . Gianforte wielded the same power this week to cut spending items from House Bill 5, the state\’s infrastructure bill.

News of Fitzpatrick\’s filing has not pleased some Medicaid providers waiting to make decisions about their upcoming budgets based on how the rate changes shake out. Any cuts to the agreed rates, they said, threaten community services in the long run.

Vetoing provider rate hikes would cost the state more by people receiving services in higher-cost, more restrictive levels of care, said Matt Bugni, CEO of Anaconda-based provider AWARE. I appreciate the work of our Legislature regarding the funding of home and community Medicaid services. I trust that the governor and our [state health department] understand the behavioral health pressures on our communities and will do what is right for Montana.

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