By Rhonda Knudsen (R-Culbertson) and Matt Regier (R-Kalispell) 

Montana is facing an unprecedented economic and public health crisis. Now more than ever, affordable and accessible healthcare options are necessary to keeping Montanans healthy and getting our state back to work. Republicans in the legislature have introduced several bills to lower the costs of healthcare and increase availability, especially in our rural communities.

House Bill 43 (HB 43) will expand the availability of telehealth. This bill permanently rescinds regulations on telehealth that have been waived due to COVID-19. If these regulations on telehealth weren’t necessary during the COVID-19 pandemic, they probably were not necessary in the first place. Additionally, HB 43 expands the definition of telehealth and the types of insurance plans eligible for services.

With advancements in medical and communication technologies, many primary care needs can be addressed through the practice of telehealth. This gives more healthcare options to Montanans and can help lower costs associated with medical care. Rural Montanans, seniors, and those with mobility issues will especially benefit from expanded telehealth options.

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House Bill 231 (HB 231) addresses Montana’s out-of-date Certificate of Need (CON) laws. CON laws were first implemented by the federal government in the 1970s in an attempt to control Medicaid costs, but by the mid-1980s the program was declared a failure and Congress withdrew it.

Under Montana’s CON program, the government gets to determine if new healthcare business is “needed”, requiring permission before starting or expanding a business. The effect limits competition that could give Montanans more choices and lower costs.

Today, most western states including all of Montana’s neighbors have repealed these laws. By doing the same here, we can increase services in our state without bureaucratic impediments.

The State Senate has already passed Senate Bill 101 which will authorize Direct Primary Care agreements between patients and medical providers without involving insurance companies. The legislature is also looking at bills to bring greater price transparency to the healthcare industry. Republicans in the legislature are committed to lowering costs and increasing availability of healthcare services for Montanans.

Representative Rhonda Knudsen (R-Culbertson) represents House District 34 in the Montana Legislature and is the sponsor of HB 43

Representative Matt Regier (R-Kalispell) represents House District 4 in the Montana Legislature and is the sponsor of HB 231

PHOTOS: February 2021 Snowfall in Montana