Montana Politics

Nov 9, 2010 7:35 PM by Marnee Banks (Helena)

Governor Schweitzer chastises medical industry

Tuesday afternoon Governor Brian Schweitzer met with several leaders from the healthcare industry to discuss the increasing cost of Medicaid.

Schweitzer chastised representatives from Blue Cross-Blue Shield, the Montana Hospital Association, and several other medical industry groups for neglecting to keep his office in the loop about how they are preparing to implement healthcare reform and keep costs down.

"As the manager of Montana's budget, I am worried because there are only three states that will increase the number of people on medicaid at a faster rate than Montana, thanks to the new health care bill," Schweitzer said.

Schweitzer told the group because of the federal health reform, Montana will see the number of people who are on Medicaid increase by 56%. He called the meeting to ask for help in finding ways to pay for the increase.

"My job is to try and find ways to go forward that Montana can continue to fund Medicaid and not be like 48 other states... broke," Schweitzer said.

The meeting came after news broke back in October that the state is considering privatizing Medicaid in a test run. The Vice President of the Montana Hospital Association, Bob Olsen, responded to the news by telling the Lee State Bureau, "We are kind of in the dark on what the Governor's office is thinking. There's been no communication at all."

"Really? In the dark? All of the meetings that you are having, all of your planning on how we are going about doing this, knowing that 2012 we gotta have this done," Schweitzer responded to Olsen's statement.

The Governor told industry reps he wants to collaborate but he needs them to talk to his office about their plans, not just talk amongst themselves. Blue Cross Blue Shield reports their leadership has held several meetings with the Governor's office to discuss keeping health care costs down and they will continue to do so.

According to the Governor's office, currently 101,000 Montanans are on Medicaid and an additional 55,000 will be added by 2012. According to the Affordable Care Act, the states will have to find a way to pay for the expansion.