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State audit: Benefits of state-run health clinics unclear

Author: BOBBY CAINA CALVAN Associated Press / Source: Bozeman Daily Chronicle

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana opened its first government-run health clinics five years ago. It was touted as a bold experiment and a possible national model in providing low-cost health care to government workers. State employees and their families have no co-pays or deductibles for checkups and routine services. There were big promises of huge financial savings.

But a scathing state audit asserts that the clinics have failed to document measurable improvements in the health of state workers. What’s more, legislative auditors said there is no proof the clinics have saved the state any money — despite claims to the contrary by the governor’s office — partly because of inadequate record keeping that undermined the accuracy of any financial analysis.

“It didn’t allow us to corroborate the cost savings advertised,” said Nick Hill, a legislative analyst who was among the audit’s authors.

The first of Montana’s health centers opened in Helena in 2012 amid the national debate over revamping the country’s health care system. The clinic, established under the administration of then-Gov. Brian Schweitzer, was heralded as the nation’s first government-run health center.

Since then, five other states — Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, New Mexico and Missouri — have opened similar clinics.

As of August last year, Montana has spent more…

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