Posted: Sep 29, 2011 9:52 AM by Marnee Banks (Helena)
Gov. Brian Schweitzer is moving forward with a plan to implement a state run universal health care program in Montana, a plan he says could cut Montana's health care costs by millions of dollars.
Schweitzer pitched the idea to U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Regional Director Marguerite Salazar on Wednesday.
"What a pack of crap the pharmaceutical industry has built with the federal government in terms of how they are able to bilk the American customers for medicine," Schweitzer told Salazar.
Schweitzer told Salazar to expect a waiver application from the state; he says his office will ask the feds for permission to operate a universal health care system in Montana, instead of implementing all the changes in the Affordable Care Act.
The system would center around community health facilities.
"We will use the physicians and nurses that currently exist in Montana. People will still be able to go to the doctors that they've been going to. They will get still the same health care that they are getting right now, probably a little better, because we are going to have more of these community health care systems available to them," Schweitzer says.
Schweitzer modeled the plan after Saskatchewan's health care system. He says on average the government spends $8,000 per patient per year for health care in Montana. In Saskatchewan that number drops in half, to $4,000 per patient per year.
"This universal health care system would be provided to all the federal patients, all the Medicaid patients, and all of the state employees," Schweitzer says.
Schweitzer says people using private insurance could buy into the program.
"Help yourself. It'll be a lonely place over there at Blue Cross Blue Shield I'm afraid," Schweitzer told Salazar.
Schweitzer says about half of Montana receives government subsidized health care so this could save millions.
Schweitzer has come up with several ways to reduce the costs of health care in Montana, and several times has been turned down by the federal government.
The most recent idea would've allowed all Montanans to access prescription drugs through the state. Schweitzer says the state pays less for prescription drugs than regular pharmacies, and he wanted to pass that savings onto Montana patients.
The feds denied his request.
The waiver for a state run universal health care system should be ready in a few months Schweitzer told Montana's News Station.
However, under the Affordable Care Act waivers could not be implemented until 2017. Currently, there is a bill before Congress which would bump that date up to 2014.