Great news on Montana's state health centers



Good news for k-12 members in MUST -- Starting July 2014, the state health centers will be open to Montana’s k-12 school employees in the MUST health insurance trust.


Montana’s new state health centers are saving money for state employees and taxpayers alike. And they’re improving state workers’ health. The results are even better than expected.

The health centers were created by executive order of former Governor Brian Schweitzer. The first center opened in Helena in 2012. More centers opened later in Billings and Miles City in 2013, and a fourth will open in Missoula in May 2014.

The goals for the health centers are:

  • improve the patient experience,
  • improve the health of State Plan members, and
  • reduce health care costs.

The state Health Care and Benefits Division (HCBD recently engaged an actuary to conduct an independent evaluation of the first year’s operation of the Montana Health Center in Helena.


The study shows the following progress toward meeting goals for the health centers:

Improve the patient experience

• The Helena health center had over 25,000 primary care visits.  The health center operated at 95% of capacity even with the addition of providers and extension of hours.

• The Helena health center met the community need of expanding access to primary care.  78% of the visits reflect unmet demand, and only 22% migrated from marketplace providers.

• Another reflection of the unmet demand is that almost 1,800 patients had no record of medical services since at least January 1, 2010.

• Surveys of members reflect much lower waiting times for their appointment and spending much more time with their physician.

•  The majority of Helena health center patients consider the health center their primary care provider, and 80% would recommend the health center to their family.

Improve patient health

• In addition to expanding access to primary care, the Helena health center has begun to improve patient health by integrating health screenings, provider visits, and wellness services into one health center dedicated to improving the health status of the patient.

• Health screening participation rates increased from prior years, and 2,750 patients participated in a health screening for the first time.

• Over 1,800 patients were identified with previously undiagnosed chronic health conditions.  This is almost double the number of patients identified in previous years.

• High cholesterol and high blood pressure were the most common new diagnoses, followed by asthma/COPD and diabetes.

• Over 1,400 patients engaged with a health coach to improve their overall health.

• Health coaches had over 10,800 contacts with patients, working on areas like nutrition, exercise programs, diet, and overall lifestyle changes.

Reduce health care costs

• During the first year the health center saved almost $3 million.

• Savings are shared by the State of Montana’s group employee benefit plan (State Plan) and the patients, with the patients saving an estimated $1.6 million and $1.3 million in savings for the State Plan.

• The savings come from lower primary care cost per visit and lower costs for laboratory, radiology and health screening services.

• The Helena health center also contributed to a migration from urgent care and a very slight change in emergency room use.

• These savings do not take into consideration the additional long-term savings from improved member health due to early identification of disease and benefits of health coaching.

Source: Russ Hill, administrator of the State of Montana’s Health Care & Benefits Division, Dept. of Administration


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