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Articles written by Mara Silvers


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  • Montana records largest drop in childhood Medicaid coverage from pre-pandemic figures, study shows

    Mara Silvers, Montana Free Press|May 8, 2024

    Montana had a 27% drop in childhood Medicaid enrollment from April to December 2023, the second highest in the nation, according to a new report that evaluates how states handled post-pandemic Medicaid eligibility throughout much of last year. The study, authored by researchers at the Center for Children and Families at Georgetown University, finds that childhood Medicaid enrollment dropped by more than four million nationwide during eligibility redeterminations in 2023. That figure does not inc...

  • Montana group launches coverage campaign after Medicaid unwinding

    Mara Silvers, Montana Free Press|Apr 17, 2024

    Earlier this month, representatives from Missoula community organizations packed into a conference room at Partnership Health Center to coordinate solutions to a collective problem: How to help thousands of people removed from state Medicaid programs in the last year regain health care coverage as quickly as possible. The campaign, titled "Get Covered Again," is spearheaded by Cover Montana, a federally supported arm of the Montana Primary Care Association that helps Montanans find and access...

  • Montana Supreme Court allows abortion ballot proposal to proceed

    Mara Silvers, Montana Free Press|Mar 27, 2024

    After two months of litigation and consideration, the Montana Supreme Court on Monday overruled the state attorney general’s January finding that a constitutional initiative to explicitly protect abortion rights is “legally insufficient,” resolving one of many obstacles to the proposal being placed before voters on the November ballot. The ruling, signed by six of the court’s seven justices and authored by Justice Ingrid Gustafson, found that the proposal submitted last fall by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Montana did not improperly “logrol...

  • Health department shares Medicaid disenrollment numbers for children, seniors, Native Americans

    Mara Silvers, Montana Free Press|Mar 20, 2024

    As Montana's multi-month review of Medicaid eligibility comes to a close, the state health department is disclosing more details about how many children, older adults and Native Americans have lost health coverage over the last year, and how the redetermination process has impacted specific counties. The latest release of information came in response to a public records request filed in January by Democratic lawmakers. The minority party has repeatedly critiqued how the administration of Gov....

  • Montana expands Medicaid coverage for housing assistance and transition from prison

    Mara Silvers, Montana Free Press|Mar 6, 2024

    The federal agency that oversees Montana’s Medicaid program has approved requests from Gov. Greg Gianforte’s administration to cover more services for Montanans with mental illnesses and substance use disorders, part of a multiyear effort to leverage state and federal funds to fill gaps in Montana’s health care system. The state Department of Public Health and Human Services on Monday announced the green light from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid for three distinct expansions of what the public insurance program can fund. Those expansions...

  • Officials urge mosquito caution as recorded West Nile Virus cases rise

    Mara Silvers, Montana Free Press|Sep 6, 2023

    State and local health officials are urging Montanans to protect themselves from mosquito bites as the state health department identifies more cases of West Nile Virus in several counties. Seven residents in McCone, Richland, Dawson, Rosebud and Yellowstone counties have tested positive for the virus this year, according to surveillance data from the Department of Public Health and Human Services last updated Friday. The virus has also been detected in mosquito pools and in horses, bringing the... Full story

  • Federal regulators ag 'concerns' as Montana cuts Medicaid rolls

    Mara Silvers, Montana Free Press|Aug 16, 2023

    Federal regulators are urging Montana health officials to fix shortcomings in the state's Medicaid redetermination process, expressing "concerns" that the state may be disenrolling people who are eligible for the public health insurance and creating barriers for others through long wait times at call centers and during the application process. The state began reassessing the eligibility of the more than 320,000 people on Montana Medicaid in April with the lifting of the federally-designated... Full story

  • More Montanans lose Medicaid coverage as reevaluations continue

    Mara Silvers, Montana Free Press|Aug 2, 2023

    Montana health officials ended Medicaid health insurance coverage for 19,244 people in May, bringing the total number of people removed from the public health program up to 34,204 since the state began reevaluating enrollee eligibility in April — an administrative power it did not have during the federally designated pandemic emergency. The state health department, which is releasing updated figures on the redetermination process roughly once a month, published the summary of May data on Friday. Nearly half of the 40,334 people up for c...

  • Almost half of Medicaid recipients reviewed in April lost coverage

    Mara Silvers, Montana Free Press|Jun 28, 2023

    Nearly half of Montanans whose Medicaid eligibility was reviewed in April lost coverage, according to new information published last week by the state health department. In total, 15,471 Montanans assessed in April had their Medicaid coverage discontinued, with the vast majority, just over 72%, losing coverage because they “failed to provide requested information,” according to the department’s Montana Medicaid Redetermination dashboard. Twenty percent — 3,094 individuals — were determined to no longer be eligible for the public health in... Full story

  • Gianforte signs state budget, boosting Medicaid reimbursements by hundreds of millions

    Mara Silvers, Montana Free Press|Jun 21, 2023

    Gov. Greg Gianforte last week announced signing the state's roughly $14.3 billion primary budget bill, creating a roadmap for funding state government for the next two years and substantially increasing reimbursement rates for health care providers who care for Medicaid patients. In a press release Wednesday afternoon, the governor's office touted many aspects included in House Bill 2, including income and property tax cuts, investments in state infrastructure, boosts to affordable childcare... Full story

  • Senior care providers, urge Montana lawmakers to boost Medicaid rates

    Mara Silvers, Montana Free Press|Jan 18, 2023

    Advocates for senior services, assisted living facilities and nursing homes packed a hearing room in the state Capitol Thursday, imploring lawmakers to increase Medicaid payment rates or else watch the already wounded industry buckle in coming months and years. Since the last legislative session convened two years ago, 11 nursing homes have closed around the state. The hearing before the committee that oversees the Department of Public Health and Human Services’ budget was one of the first opportunities this session for lawmakers to hear d... Full story

  • Montana Health department proposes new requirements for Medicaid abortion coverage

    Mara Silvers, Montana Free Press|Jan 4, 2023

    This week MTFP obtained a copy of a proposed rule change from the Department of Public Health and Human Services that would add layers of red tape for low-income Montanans seeking Medicaid coverage for abortions and prohibit nurse practitioners and physician assistants from billing Medicaid for those services. By Friday, it was posted publicly along with information about its upcoming Jan. 12 hearing. You might be scratching your head - doesn't something called the Hyde Amendment prohibit the... Full story

  • Federal judge strikes down Montana vaccine choice law in health settings

    Mara Silvers, Montana Free Press|Dec 21, 2022

    A federal judge in the U.S. District of Montana recently ruled that Montana's law barring discrimination based on vaccine status is unconstitutional and preempted by federal law as it applies to healthcare settings, bringing a resolution to a lawsuit filed against House Bill 702 by Montana hospitals, private medical providers, unionized nurses and immunocompromised patients. The 41-page ruling written by Judge Donald W. Molloy found that, while justified by state attorneys as an anti-discriminat... Full story

  • Congressional races up and running

    Mara Silvers, Montana Free Press|Mar 23, 2022

    Candidates running for seats in the U.S. House of Representatives have officially filed their requisite paperwork as of 5 p.m. Monday, bringing the tally of active candidates up to nine Republicans, six Democrats, four Libertarians and one Independent. The contenders are almost equally divided between Montana’s two congressional districts. Incumbent Republican Rep. Matt Rosendale, from Glendive, is running in the eastern district, which includes Lewis and Clark, Park and Yellowstone counties. He faces challenges from Republicans Kyle Austin, J... Full story

  • Gallatin County ends decade-long contract with Western Montana Mental Health

    Mara Silvers, Montana Free Press|Jan 19, 2022

    One of Montana’s leading providers of behavioral health services will no longer have an operating contract with Gallatin County as of Feb. 2. Citing several breaches of its agreement, Gallatin County Commissioners and County Attorney Marty Lambert notified Western Montana Mental Health Center in a letter Monday that the “Gallatin County hereby advises all of you that WMMHC has, on multiple occasions, breached its contractual obligations to the County, including but not limited to, the provisions outlined below,” stated an accompanying Jan....

  • Montana files third challenge to federal vaccine mandates

    Mara Silvers, Montana Free Press|Nov 24, 2021

    Montana last week filed its third lawsuit against the Biden administration's federal vaccine requirements, joining several other Republican-led states in challenging the White House's efforts to increase protection against COVID-19. Even as the virus continues to spread in Montana, Attorney General Austin Knudsen has called Biden's strategy an "unconstitutional power grab and intrusion into Montanans' lives." Here's a breakdown of what the Biden administration is seeking to do, how Montanans...

  • Bozeman Health presents roadmap for inpatient psychiatric unit

    Mara Silvers, Montana Free Press|Oct 13, 2021

    Bozeman Health, the dominant medical care provider in Montana's most rapidly growing region, has announced plans to develop a 12-bed adult inpatient psychiatric unit at Deaconess Hospital by 2023, responding to years of community pressure. The unit will be the first of its kind in Bozeman, and is expected to ease some strain on units in other towns that have struggled to meet patient demand. The health care system's decision was made public after gaining the support of its board members in a... Full story

  • In a community with an abundance of wealth, mental health options still scarce

    Mara Silvers, Montana Free Press|Aug 25, 2021

    In June, the median price for a single-family home in Gallatin County was $702,000, an increase of nearly 54% from the previous year. According to census data from 2019, nearly 21% of the county's households made between $100,000 and $149,000 in the preceding 12 months, 6.5% higher than the statewide figure. The county's population is now approaching 120,000 residents, making it one of the fastest-growing regions in the state. Yet despite the apparent abundance, some local residents, health...

  • Judge temporarily halts campus carry bill

    Mara Silvers, Montana Free Press|Jun 2, 2021

    HELENA — A district court judge on Friday temporarily enjoined the enforcement date of House Bill 102, the bill that would expand permissions for concealed carry firearms on campus starting June 1. The order by Judge Mike McMahon in Lewis and Clark County came in response to a suit filed by the Montana University System Board of Regents, which voted unanimously last week to challenge the new law in court. In his ruling, McMahon wrote that the board would “suffer immediate and irreparable inj...

  • State to expand vaccine eligibility to residents 16 and older

    Mara Silvers, Montana Free Press|Mar 24, 2021

    HELENA - After months of calculated and incremental expansions in vaccine eligibility, all Montanans 16 and older will be allowed to sign up to receive inoculations beginning April 1. The Tuesday announcement by Gov. Greg Gianforte was prompted in part by growing confidence in the national vaccine supply, and, Gianforte said, after some counties have indicated they are prepared to proceed to the next stage of distribution. "As vaccine production ramps up, and new vaccines are introduced, we're s... Full story

  • Can Montana get a grip on addiction?

    Mara Silvers, Montana Free Press|Mar 17, 2021

    In late January, when Mary Windecker got up to testify in front of the budget committee considering how to fund Montana’s addiction and mental health treatment programs, her words cut through a typically bureaucratic proceeding to present an uncomfortable bottom line. “You’re all familiar now with some of the statistics across the state,” she said. “Montana scores at the highest of every indicator we don’t want to be in.” Windecker, director of the nonprofit Behavioral Health Alliance of Montana, was talking about the state’s suicide rates....

  • 2021 Legislature convenes in a crowded Capitol

    Mara Silvers and Chris Aadland, Montana Free Press|Jan 6, 2021

    HELENA - Members of the House and Senate kicked off the 2021 Legislature in person at the state Capitol on Monday, formally convening and electing leadership for what may be a turbulent 90-day session during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lawmakers took their oaths of office on the House and Senate floors, observed by crowded galleries of family members, friends and members of the public. Republicans in the Senate and House partially complied with mask guidelines that have been stressed by public... Full story

  • 'We're getting there': Health care workers are first in line as Montanans receive initial round of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine

    Mara Silvers, Montana Free Press|Dec 23, 2020

    HELENA - At St. Peter's Health in Helena, many doctors and medical staff spent the beginning of this week eagerly preparing for a pivotal moment. On Wednesday and Thursday of last week, the hospital said, frontline employees began receiving the first of two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, marking what many health experts consider a seismic step in the fight against the coronavirus afflicting Montana and the country. The past several months of vaccine development...

  • Montana prepares for initial COVID-19 vaccinations

    Mara Silvers, Montana Free Press|Dec 16, 2020

    When 9,750 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine arrive in Montana as early as this week, the delivery will mark the beginning of a complex distribution plan organized by public health officials, hospital administrations and commercial pharmacies. The goal of the initial round of distribution, state officials say, is to get the vaccine to as many frontline health care workers as possible. As of Tuesday, Montana reported 17,293 active cases, with approximately 70% of the state's ICU beds full,...

  • Lawmakers continue rules debate

    Mara Silvers, Montana Free Press|Dec 16, 2020

    HELENA - Lawmakers who sit on the House and Senate rules committees convened virtually and at the state Capitol this week to debate how the upcoming legislative session should operate as COVID-19 continues to spread across the state. After presiding over spirited and often heated discussions about several measures, including mask requirements and allowing lawmakers to participate virtually, newly appointed leadership said the Joint Rules Committee will reconvene on Wednesday, Dec. 16, to take...

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