Legislature’s Health Care Investments Will Help Montana Families
Senators John Esp and Jason Small Monday, June 12th, 2023 9:54am
We would wager that nearly every Montana family has struggled in some way with mental health, diabetes, or postpartum health care. The 2023 Legislature made unprecedented investments in all three of those areas that together will positively impact families in every corner of our state.
Not only did we both vote for all of these reforms, but one of us (Senator Jason Small) sponsored the diabetes legislation. The other (Senator John Esp) chaired the Senate’s influential Finance and Claims Committee and shepherded the other bills through the Senate as the Senate sponsor of the legislation. Here’s the lowdown on what these new laws do.
Senate Bill 340 by Sen. Small is a straightforward yet game-changing policy for Montanans who need insulin and have private health insurance coverage. The bill puts an upper limit on what Montanans have to pay out-of-pocket for their insulin: $35 per month. Going forward, if you buy your own health insurance or get your health insurance from your employer and you need insulin, you’ll only have to pay, at most, $35 for a 30-day supply of insulin, regardless of how much or what type of insulin you are prescribed. This is a life-changing, and for some, potentially life-saving change to their health insurance coverage.
House Bill 872, sponsored by Flathead Republican Rep. Bob Keenan, makes a generational investment into mental health care. Over the next several years that legislation will spend $300 million of Montana’s budget surplus to reform and revamp our state’s behavioral health care system. The money will be spent on investments to stabilize and improve mental health services across the state. HB 872 is the largest investment in behavioral health care in Montana history.
House Bill 2, sponsored by Conrad Republican Rep. Llew Jones, is the state’s primary budget bill for the next two years. The Legislature allocated $6.2 million in state and federal funding in HB 2 to significantly expand postpartum health care for mothers on the state’s Medicaid program. This additional funding expands postpartum medical coverage—from only 60 days to a full 12 months—for over 1,000 mothers. This pro-family policy demonstrates Montana Republicans’ commitment to mothers and their children, including those who don’t have employer health insurance and can’t afford their own private health insurance.
Regardless of whether a Montana family lives in the west or east side of the state, on an Indian reservation, in a big town or on a rural plot of land miles from the closest neighbor, all have struggled with diabetes, mental health, or accessing pregnancy-related health care at one point or another. As the new policies passed by the 2023 Legislature take effect, all of those difficulties just got easier and more affordable for families to address.
Senator Jason Small, a Republican from Busby, is a member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe and the sponsor of SB 340. Senator John Esp, a Republican from Big Timber, is the chair of the Senate’s Finance and Claims Committee.