Montana’s medical marijuana industry expected to hit $18.7 million this year [Video]

“BILLINGS – Medical marijuana will soon give a small boost to Montana’s general fund that could eventually rise to hundreds of thousands of tax dollars annually. Thanks to a new law that went into effect this July, the state will soon collect taxes on about $18.75 million in medical marijuana sales in 2017, the first year” More…

Senator Daines co-sponsors bill to cut funding for Planned Parenthood

Daines co-sponsors bill to cut funding to Planned Parenthood

HELENA – Montana’s Republican U.S. senator, Steve Daines, announced Monday he’s co-sponsoring bills that would eliminate federal health funding for Planned Parenthood, calling it an organization that “traffics human baby parts.” Daines is one of 25 senators co-sponsoring two bills that would halt federal funds for Planned Parenthood, which is targeted by abortion opponents because …

HELENA – Montana’s Republican U.S. senator, Steve Daines, announced Monday he’s co-sponsoring bills that would eliminate federal health funding for Planned Parenthood, calling it an organization that “traffics human baby parts.”

Daines is one of 25 senators co-sponsoring two bills that would halt federal funds for Planned Parenthood, which is targeted by abortion opponents because it performs abortions. Similar bills have been introduced in the U.S. House.

The bills would prohibit Planned Parenthood from receiving Title X funding, which helps finance reproductive and other health services for low-income women, such as birth control and cancer screenings. Federal funds are barred from financing abortions.

The money is distributed to health clinics in Montana and across the country, including those run by Planned Parenthood.

Daines emphasized that the bills do not reduce any federal funds for women’s health, saying the money that now goes to Planned Parenthood would be redirected to other clinics.

“This bill ensures that there is no reduction, not one dollar, of reduction in overall federal funding available to support women’s health,” he said in comments on the U.S. Senate floor.

Planned Parenthood of Montana President Martha Stahl said Monday that cutting its federal funds would have “a devastating impact on women and health care.”

The notion that other clinics can simply absorb Planned Parenthood’s patients is incorrect, she added.

In fiscal 2016, Planned Parenthood clinics in Missoula, Billings, Helena and Great Falls received about $600,000 in federal funds, to help pay for women’s reproductive health services. Another $900,000 went to nine other clinics around the state.

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., denounced the bills Monday, saying that taking away women’s access to basic health care is “reckless and irresponsible.”

Daines said America is a “nation that values life,” and that it must stand in defense of those who are most vulnerable, including the “unborn.”

Planned Parenthood has denied that it profits from the sale of aborted fetus parts, but has said fetal tissue may be donated for research at the request of the woman who has an abortion.

Time for common sense on medical marijuana

Good Lord Missoulian. That website is a disaster these days! Are you sure you couldn’t add more popup ads and make it load even slower? Click their link at your own risk. You can also see the article and comment below.

Time for common sense on medical marijuana

In 2004 Montana voters, by wide margin, passed an initiative to allow marijuana use for medical purposes. Persons with specified debilitating conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and chronic pain, could receive a medical marijuana card, if certified by a medical doctor. This provided blessed relief for some sick people.

In 2004 Montana voters, by wide margin, passed an initiative to allow marijuana use for medical purposes. Persons with specified debilitating conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and chronic pain, could receive a medical marijuana card, if certified by a medical doctor. This provided blessed relief for some sick people.

For example, one witness suffering severe cancer said that he would be “dead by now” if not for medical marijuana because his chemotherapy made him vomit 24 hours a day. He said: “I am sorry. I am passionate about this, it’s the only thing that helped.” Another patient, now dead, suffering from emphysema and other debilitating conditions, down to 69 pounds, pleaded not to have to go back on opioids because they put her in a zombie-like state and she wanted to enjoy her last days with her grandchildren.

Unfortunately, there were abuses—particularly over-certification by a few rogue doctors who barely examined their patients. This was effectively addressed by the Montana Board of Medical Examiners, which clamped down on doctors who did not follow the required standard of care.

Although this was the sensible approach, the 2011 Legislature, in a severe overreaction, took separate action, gutting the medical marijuana law. In particular, the amendment limited medical marijuana providers to only three patients. A Helena district judge recognized the irrationality of such a severe limitation, and immediately enjoined it.

From 2011 to 2016, with this and other onerous provisions enjoined, the law worked effectively. Patients in need had access, but the abuses were eliminated.

A representative of the Board of Medical Examiners later testified:

Q. Has the board received any complaints or is there any evidence of abuses related with marijuana caravans?

A. Sir, there just have been no complaints about licenses and medical marijuana at all, either in, if you will, fiscal 2012 or fiscal 2013.

And:

Q. Things have gone pretty well since July 1, 2011 vis-à-vis medical marijuana from the board’s standpoint?

A. I would say the board’s workload on that particular subject has been very, very light if non-existent.

In other words, the 2011 law, without the three-patient limit, worked very smoothly to ensure patient access while, at the same time, curbing abuses.

Despite this, the Montana Supreme Court earlier this year overturned the injunction deferring to the legislative judgment made in 2011. The three-patient limit was reinstated.

The reinstatement of the three-patient limit is the death knell for medical marijuana. Imagine if your pharmacist could only dispense opioid pain-killers and its other pharmaceuticals to three patients. Pharmacists would soon be out of business.

Initiative I-182 has qualified for the November ballot. It has been carefully crafted to reinstate the law that worked effectively from 2011 to 2016. Specifically, it eliminates the three-patient limit, which everybody agrees is arbitrary and was designed essentially to kill medical marijuana.

Marijuana, while not totally harmless, is relatively benign. In 1999, the Institute of Medicine found that tobacco was used by 76 percent of the population and 32 percent became dependent. Ninety-two percent of the population had used alcohol; 15 percent had become dependent. Marijuana, including hashish, had been used by 46 percent of the population but had only a 9 percent dependency rate. Yet alcohol and tobacco use are perfectly legal for adults. Neither drug has the compelling medicinal qualities of marijuana.

It is time for a little common sense. The evidence is now overwhelming that marijuana helps some people with certain medical conditions.

I-182 should be supported.

Obama administration confirms double-digit premium hikes

And in affordable healthcare for everyone….. The Billings Gazette is still at it with the popups. Click their link at your own risk. Find the article and comment below at this popup free site 🙂

Obama administration confirms double-digit premium hikes

WASHINGTON (AP) – Premiums will go up sharply next year under President Barack Obama’s health care law, and many consumers will be down to just one insurer, the administration confirmed Monday. That will stoke another “Obamacare” controversy days before a presidential election.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Premiums will go up sharply next year under President Barack Obama’s health care law, and many consumers will be down to just one insurer, the administration confirmed Monday. That’s sure to stoke another “Obamacare” controversy days before a presidential election.

Before taxpayer-provided subsidies, premiums for a midlevel benchmark plan will increase an average of 25 percent across the 39 states served by the federally run online market, according to a report from the Department of Health and Human Services. Some states will see much bigger jumps, others less.

Moreover, about 1 in 5 consumers will only have plans from a single insurer to pick from, after major national carriers such as UnitedHealth Group, Humana and Aetna scaled back their roles.

“Consumers will be faced this year with not only big premium increases but also with a declining number of insurers participating, and that will lead to a tumultuous open enrollment period,” said Larry Levitt, who tracks the health care law for the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

Republicans pounced on the numbers as a warning that insurance markets created by the 2010 health overhaul are teetering toward a “death spiral.” Sign-up season starts Nov. 1, about a week before national elections in which the GOP remains committed to a full repeal.

The new numbers aren’t too surprising, said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who chairs a committee that oversees the law. It “does little to dispel the notion we are seeing the law implode at the expense of middle-class families.”

HHS essentially confirmed state-by-state reports that have been coming in for months. Window shopping for plans and premiums is already available through HealthCare.gov.

Administration officials are stressing that subsidies provided under the law, which are designed to rise alongside premiums, will insulate most customers from sticker shock. They add that consumers who are willing to switch to cheaper plans will still be able to find bargains.

“Headline rates are generally rising faster than in previous years,” acknowledged HHS spokesman Kevin Griffis. But he added that for most consumers, “headline rates are not what they pay.”

The vast majority of the more than 10 million customers who purchase through HealthCare.gov and its state-run counterparts do receive generous financial assistance. “Enrollment is concentrated among very low-income individuals who receive significant government subsidies to reduce premiums and cost-sharing,” said Caroline Pearson of the consulting firm Avalere Health

But an estimated 5 million to 7 million people are either not eligible for the income-based assistance, or they buy individual policies outside of the health law’s markets, where the subsidies are not available. The administration is urging the latter group to check out HealthCare.gov. The spike in premiums generally does not affect the employer-provided plans that cover most workers and their families.

In some states, the premium increases are striking. In Arizona, unsubsidized premiums for a hypothetical 27-year-old buying a benchmark “second-lowest cost silver plan” will jump by 116 percent, from $196 to $422, according to the administration report.

But HHS said if that hypothetical consumer has a fairly modest income, making $25,000 a year, the subsidies would cover $280 of the new premium, and the consumer would pay $142. Caveat: if the consumer is making $30,000 or $40,000 his or her subsidy would be significantly lower.

Dwindling choice is another issue.

The total number of HealthCare.gov insurers will drop from 232 this year to 167 in 2017, a loss of 28 percent. (Insurers are counted multiple times if they offer coverage in more than one state. So Aetna, for example, would count once in each state that it participated in.)

Switching insurers may not be simple for patients with chronic conditions.

While many carriers are offering a choice of plan designs, most use a single prescription formulary and physician network across all their products, explained Pearson. “So, enrollees may need to change doctors or drugs when they switch insurers,” she said.

Overall, it’s shaping up to be the most difficult sign-up season since HealthCare.gov launched in 2013 and the computer system froze up.

Enrollment has been lower than initially projected, and insurers say patients turned out to be sicker than expected. Moreover, a complex internal system to help stabilize premiums has not worked as hoped for.

Nonetheless Obama says the underlying structure of the law is sound, and current problems are only “growing pains.” The president has called for a government-sponsored “public option” insurance plan to compete with private companies.

Republicans are united in calling for complete repeal, but they have not spelled out how they would address the problems of the uninsured.

Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has proposed an array of fixes, including sweetening the law’s subsidies and allowing more people to qualify for financial assistance.

The law makes carrying health insurance a legal obligation for most people, and prohibits insurers for turning away the sick. It offers subsidized private plans to people who don’t have coverage through their jobs, along with a state option to expand Medicaid for low-income people.

Largely as a result, the nation’s uninsured rate has dropped below 9 percent, a historically low level. More than 21 million people have gained coverage since the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010.