Montana’s Healthcare Success Story
"While other states have struggled to repeal Certificate of Need laws, Montana’s legislature should be commended for taking a stand for healthcare access."
“The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.” – F.A. Hayek
If I told you that Montana was being pointed to by other states as a success story for healthcare reform, would you believe me?
It’s true – up until last year Montana was one of 35 states that still required soviet-style “certificate of need” (CON) regulations for healthcare. Under the CON program, the government determines if a new health care business is “needed” and gives market incumbents the advantage in the process – stifling market competition and limiting Montanans’ access to healthcare
Thankfully, Governor Gianforte and the 2021 Montana Legislature passed HB 231, a Frontier Institute proposal to repeal all but one of Montana’s CON laws, helping open more options for inpatient addiction care, home healthcare, outpatient surgery centers and more.
National experts called these CON reforms “the most significant reform in any state in recent years.”
Despite the repeal only being officially in effect since October 2021, it’s already had an impact expanding healthcare access. We confirmed with Montana’s DPHHS this winter that two home health companies had already expanded service to at least 18 additional counties, something that would have required a CON approval before.
While other states have struggled to repeal Certificate of Need laws, Montana’s legislature should be commended for taking a stand for healthcare access.
After our Montana Zoning Atlas report last month highlighted how strict local zoning regulations worsen Montana’s housing crisis by making it difficult to build affordable homes, a number of local governments have since announced they will be making reforms. Here are some of the highlights:
City of Missoula
Last week, The City of Missoula announced plans to revamp their zoning code into one comprehensive document that is more in line with their 2015 growth policy. These reforms will pull from other mountain west cities with the intent of streamlining the development process to make the code more predictable for both the community and developers.
Last week, The Missoula County Commission approved a new county wide zoning code which attempts to address regulatory barriers by allowing more zoning flexibility. The new code also grants developers additional leeway with density, minimum lot sizes, parking and other requirements in exchange for installing things like bicycle infrastructure and electrical vehicle charging stations.
City of Bozeman
Last week, Bozeman announced a proposal to allow for departures to the city’s zoning code with the intent to reduce the costs and increase production of housing. Upon the approval of the City, developers will be granted modest reductions in parking requirements, setbacks, maximum lot coverage, building heights and reduced requirements for ADU’s.
City of Whitefish
This week, the Whitefish City Council passed the first reading of the city’s new accessory dwelling unit ordinance, authorizing ADU’s in residential zones as long as height and sq. ft. stipulations are met.
Our Take: These reforms are encouraging, however we do have some concerns about the strings attached to increased zoning flexibility. Over the coming weeks we will continue to keep you filled in as we dive into these local zoning changes.
Frontier President & CEO Kendall Cotton authored a column this week in Lee Newspapers highlighting how the passage of SB 101 has led to the flourishing of Direct Patient Care providers in Montana. Here’s a sneak peak at his column:
“Montana’s 2021 reforms gave maximum freedom to entrepreneurs of all sorts — doctors, nurses, specialists — to innovate with the DPC model and grow the market for affordable healthcare options. Today, free market healthcare is flourishing in Montana.”