Eric Whitney

Eric Whitney is the news director for Montana Public Radio.

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Last week the Trump administration made a historic change to Medicaid, the health coverage program that’s jointly funded by the states and federal government. For the first time, states were given the OK to require Medicaid recipients to work in exchange for health coverage.

Republican lawmakers tried to do that in Montana 2015, but the Obama administration said no.

A legislative committee on health care prices seems split on whether giving consumers more information about health care prices will make much difference.

Last year Montana's Legislature set up a committee to study transparency in health care pricing, concerned that consumers don't have enough information about what health care procedures cost to shop for the best deals. And that means there's little incentive for providers to offer low prices.

Shopping for health care is kind of like going to a grocery store where there aren’t any price tags. That jar of spaghetti sauce might cost $4, or maybe $50. But in health care you typically don’t find out prices until you get to the checkout counter. People with one kind of card pay one price, those with another pay a different one, and you may do better or worse if you offer cash.

Last year Montana lawmakers, frustrated by how hard it is to shop for the best deal in healthcare, set up a special committee to find solutions. That committee meets for the first time Wednesday.

We're getting perspective now on last week's news that the U.S. Interior Department said it had approved a major coal mine expansion in Montana. It caused the stock of the mining company involved to temporarily spike.

Six days later, Interior rescinded its statement, saying no expansion was approved, and the original approval statement was the result of “internal miscommunication.”

At an appearance in Missoula Tuesday, Senator Jon Tester said he’s recently changed his mind about a contentious political issue in Montana.

Late last week Montana’s state health department announced that it’s severing contracts with four non-profit companies that help people with developmental disabilities. That’s due to the reduced state budget enacted by Governor Steve Bullock because of the state bringing in lower than expected revenue.

The health department says the 2,700 clients of those companies who will lose services due to the severed contracts will be taken care of by the department starting this spring.

To learn more about what the cuts mean, MTPR News Director Eric Whitney talked to the CEO of one of the four non-profits.

The final tally for the number of Montanans who signed up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act by last Friday’s deadline are in, and they’re more than 90 percent of what they were last year.

"We’re happy with the numbers," says Olivia Riutta with the Montana Primary Care Association.

A new study says Montana lost close to a quarter of a billion dollars in tourist revenue this year due to a tough fire season. That’s based on a survey of tourists by the University of Montana's Institute for Tourism and Recreational Research.

"For every hundred visitors that came to Montana this summer, about eight to nine other visitors cancelled their trips because of the smoke," Associate Director Jeremy Sage says.

Governor Steve Bullock and Attorney General Tim Fox announced Thursday they’re creating an advisory group for Colstrip to help the area develop an economic impact plan.

Today, NPR’s Morning Edition aired a story about discrimination Native Americans face when trying to get healthcare in America. It included an interview with Anna Whiting Sorrell, a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

We’re going to follow up now by looking at some of the persistent myths about American Indians that get in the way of them getting healthcare.

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