Sarah Elliott 406-444-9725
Jayson O'Neill 406-444-9844
(HELENA) - Governor Brian Schweitzer today said that Republican legislators are increasing the cost and lowering the quality of healthcare in Montana by refusing funding for electronic health records technology. The legislature denied the Department of Health and Humans Services (DPHHS) the authority to accept and distribute the money to hospitals four times on party line votes. The authority failed to go into House Bill 2 - which passed the House Monday on a party line vote.
"If Montana rejects the money, it will be distributed to other states, and Montana providers would be left holding the bag, requiring them to use their own funds for the technology or be left behind," said Governor Schweitzer. "This harms patients and drives up costs. Electronic health record systems save money and improve care through eliminating the need for duplicative testing."
Montana hospitals and doctors are due to receive an estimated $35 million in federal funding to reduce costs and improve patient care with technology - the legislature rejected that funding. The removal of that funding from the health care sector will result in an estimated loss of 504 Montana jobs.
Montana is the only state that has refused the health record incentive funds.
"The legislature has stalled and delayed and now, even if they decided to give the Department authority, we are not sure the money will be available," said Governor Schweitzer.
The legislature has cut about $131 million in state and federal funding from the DPHHS budget - removing this money from the health care sector will result in an estimated loss of 1,886 Montana jobs.
Montana has 47 critical access hospitals in smaller communities across the state; almost all will likely qualify for the funding, because they serve small town rural populations.
The DPHHS budget will be heard in the Senate this Friday at 8 a.m. in the Senate Finance and Claims Committee.