HELENA - The Montana Healthcare Forum is recommending several proposals to expand and improve health care in Montana. Here are some of its recommendations:
• Implement and fund Initiative 155, which expands government-funded health insurance for children in Montana. Voters approved it this month by a 70 to 30 percent margin, and Gov. Brian Schweitzer has included $20 million a year in his proposed budget for 2009 and 2010. I-155 can't be implemented without approval by the 2009 Legislature.
• Increase funding for Insure Montana by $11 million the next two years to clear the waiting list for the program, which helps subsidize health insurance purchased by small business for its employees.
• Increase by $8 million the funding for the Montana Comprehensive Health Association, which offers health insurance for "high risk" people with health problems.
• Expand state funding for community health care clinics, increasing it from $650,000 to $2 million a year. The clinics provide primary, basic health care to many who are uninsured or have trouble affording care.
• Fund a $1.5 million proposal to begin developing a statewide health care database, which can exchange information between providers and others across the state.
• Create a pool of state funds to help repay college loans of people who take health care jobs in underserved, rural areas of Montana.
• Have Montana hospitals put their prices on the Internet starting next year.