Government run health care in Montana

I can’t add much to this story at NPR:

A year ago, Montana opened the nation’s first clinic for free primary healthcare services to its state government employees. The Helena, Mont., clinic was pitched as a way to improve overall employee health, but the idea has faced its fair share of political opposition.

A year later, the state says the clinic is already saving money.

Pamela Weitz, a 61-year-old state library technician, was skeptical about the place at first.

“I thought it was just the goofiest idea, but you know, it’s really good,” she says. In the last year, she’s been there for checkups, blood tests and flu shots. She doesn’t have to go; she still has her normal health insurance provided by the state. But at the clinic, she has no co-pays, no deductibles. It’s free.

That’s the case for the Helena area’s 11,000 state workers and their dependents. With an appointment, patients wait just a couple minutes to see a doctor. Visitation is more than 75 percent higher than initial estimates.

“For goodness sakes, of course the employees and the retirees like it, it’s free,” says Republican State Sen. Dave Lewis.

For the record, Lewis was upset with the clinic when it was first opened. Now he “likes going there“. The clinic is saving the state $1.5 million because the care there costs less. Doctors aren’t fee-for-service reimbursed. Montana can buy supplies at lower prices. Visits are about half the price of what they would otherwise be.

They recently opened a second such clinic in Billings. They’re planning more.

It’s interesting to see this happen in a state like Montana. You’d expect them to hate government-run health care, and many of them did. But it turns out that the reality wasn’t so bad. I’m reminded of how everyone hated Medicare (until they didn’t). They hated government clinics (until they didn’t).

They hate the ACA now. Will they always?


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