The Roundup -

Senator Tester Holds Listening Session in Sidney


Judy Lapan, public health director for Richland County, and Theresa Livers, continuum of care coordinator for Sidney Health Center join Senator Jon Tester in listening to a comment regarding local health care.

Senator Jon Tester held a listening session with health care professionals from the region in Sidney last Friday, one of fifteen in the state so far, to hear their concerns about the existing Affordable Care Act (ACA), and what could be done to improve it.

CEOs and representatives from area hospitals, mental health, Action For Eastern Montana, public health, and nursing homes expressed their frustration and praise with the existing system.

All agreed that coverage for pre-existing conditions and preventative services, with no caps should be kept as part of any new system.

Mental health officials stated that their outcomes had improved significantly with the expansion of Medicaid, including dental and vision, stating that mental health needs physical health. They commented that the ACA needs to be tweaked, not replaced.

With the possibility that federal dollars may not cover Medicaid in its current form, attendees worried that programs now covered, such as vision and dental, may be eliminated. Trying to care for a patient who can't eat because of bad teeth is difficult.

While some hospitals saw a higher number of insured patients, high deductibles mean much of the co-pays may not be collectible. Reporting requirements were also seen as time consuming and ineffective by some. Another issue was unequal reimbursement by federal programs, with the desire expressed that all agencies should pay the same for procedures.

The lack of tort reform with the ACA was also discussed with the comment that doctors and hospitals are forced to practice 'defensive medicine', possibly ordering more tests than necessary, to prevent a potential lawsuit. Senator Tester agreed that more transparency is needed in all areas.

Public health expressed frustration with the lack of prevention funds they receive, stating that the dollars go from the feds to the state, but very little comes to Richland County even though their services are more cost effective than those through the hospitals.

Senator Tester thanked everyone for their input, and was headed to Plentywood to continue his listening sessions.


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