The war between Montana’s Democratic Governor and the Republican majority legislature over the state budget wasn’t settled during the 2017 legislative session. Underperforming state revenues have led to cuts in major departments, like health and human services. But legislators, like Albert Olszewski, say that the executive branch’s decision to reduce compensation for provider pay is a bridge too far.

"What we see is that the executive branch is reducing payments on services to people who provide those services, especially in health care," Olszewski said. "The intent of the legislature was that we would find inefficiencies through our government, and that we would cut government bureaucracy rather than cut services to people. However, we wanted to be sure in Senate Bill 261, that we didn't micromanage the governor."

Olszewski sits on the Children, Families, and Health And Human Services Interim Committee, which recently put the planned provider pay reductions on hold until a committee meeting next month. Olszewski, who is himself a doctor, says reducing provider pay will reduce health care accessibility and gave this example…

"It makes it extremely difficult for companies that provide services to the developmentally disabled or to senior long-term to hire people that actually do the direct primary care. Right now, they are getting paid a starting wage of $9.50, so a person who has to care and have compassion for people, to bathe them and do their toiletry functions, gets paid $9.50 an hour, where another person can take a job at McDonald's and make $11.00 an hour."

Olszewski says the new DPHHS director Sheila Hogan will appear before the Children, Families and Health and Human Services Committee on September 11 to explain why the cuts were taken out of provider pay rather than the bureaucracy.


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