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Articles written by Keely Larson


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  • Montana Passes Significant Health Policy Changes in Controversial Session

    Keely Larson, KFF Health News - UM Legislative News Service|Updated May 9, 2023

    Republican leaders' banishment of a transgender lawmaker from floor debates in the recently ended Montana legislative session seized the nation's attention. It also overshadowed significant health policy changes and historic levels of health care spending. The session likely will be remembered for GOP leaders removing Democratic Rep. Zooey Zephyr, one of two transgender representatives in the Capitol, from House floor debates. That the ban has distracted from approvals of...

  • Montana Considers Requiring Insurance to Cover Fertility Preservation for Cancer Patients

    Keely Larson, KFF Health News-UM Legislative News Service|Updated May 3, 2023

    Katie Beall was diagnosed with breast cancer on March 1, 2022. Two days later, doctors told her the chemotherapy she needed would make her infertile. The next day, she started looking into how she could freeze her eggs, which would give her the option of becoming a mother in the future. Twenty-three days after her cancer diagnosis, the 36-year-old Helena resident said, she had put $7,579 on three credit cards to pay for her out-of-pocket fertility preservation costs. Her...

  • Tension Builds in Transgender Policy Debate in Montana

    Keely Larson, KFF Health News-UM Legislative News Service|Updated Apr 25, 2023

    On April 13, Democratic Rep. Zooey Zephyr was sitting in the basement of Montana's Capitol building reflecting on her time as one of the state's first two openly transgender legislators. She wondered whether she needed to display more anger over anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, or whether she should focus on promoting more of what she called "transgender joy." "The thing that keeps me up at night is, am I doing a good job for my community?" Zephyr said. Five days later, the anger...

  • Montana May Require Insurers to Cover Monitoring Devices for Diabetes

    Keely Larson, KHN-UM Legislative News Service|Updated Apr 11, 2023

    In between sets of tumbling warmups, Adrienne Prashar crossed the gym to where she had stashed her diabetes supplies and tested her blood sugar. Prashar, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes the day before her 13th birthday, said tumbling usually drops her blood sugar levels. Prashar, now 14, did a finger stick, saw her blood sugar was 127, and went back to the mat. For most people with diabetes, the target range is about 80-130, and up to 180 two hours after meals. Prashar...

  • Health Providers Scramble to Keep Remaining Staff Amid Medicaid Rate Debate

    Keely Larson, KHN-UM Legislative News Service|Updated Mar 28, 2023

    Andrew Johnson lets his clients choose what music to play in the car. As an employee of Family Outreach in Helena, Montana - an organization that assists developmentally disabled people - part of his workday involves driving around, picking up clients, and taking them to work or to run errands. "What's up, gangsta?" Johnson said as a client got in the car one day in March. The pair fist-bumped and Johnson asked what type of music the client liked. "Gangsta stuff," came the...

  • Montana Considers New Wave of Legislation to Loosen Vaccination Rules

    Keely Larson, KHN-UM Legislative News Service|Updated Mar 14, 2023

    When Deb Horning's daughter was 5, she got her measles, mumps, and rubella shot like many other kindergartners. But unlike many other moms, Horning had to stay away from her daughter for a week after the shot. Horning, 51, was diagnosed in 2014 with acute myeloid leukemia, an aggressive cancer - the five-year survival rate for those older than 20 is 27 percent. Horning had been through chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant, which severely weakened her immune system. Because... Full story

  • Amid Dire Suicide Rates in Montana, Governor Expands Student Mental Health Screening

    Keely Larson, KHN-UM Legislative News Service|Updated Feb 20, 2023

    Bella Nyman has struggled with her mental health since age 7, when she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and anxiety. Nyman said she was afraid to tell her parents she had thoughts of suicide. Looking back, a mental health screening might have helped her to stop hiding her struggles from adults and peers, she said. "Hard things don't get better if we don't talk about them," Nyman said. Today, Nyman works with the Rural Behavioral Health Institute, a Livingston,...

  • Montana Considers Allowing Physician Assistants to Practice Independently

    Keely Larson, KHN-UM Legislative News Service|Updated Feb 14, 2023

    Megan Zawacki started working at St. Peter's Health in Helena, Montana, in 2020 as a physician assistant trained in treating addiction. She had gone through specialized training that allowed her to prescribe Suboxone, a medication to fight opioid addiction, but she couldn't do so for six months. That's because Zawacki was hired to work with a doctor who specialized in addiction medicine, but that doctor did not join St. Peter's until three months after Zawacki was hired, and...

  • Veteran Justice Rice seeks a fourth term; challenger D'Alton vows to serve just one

    Keely Larson, Community News Service, UM School of Journalism|Updated Oct 29, 2022

    One Montana Supreme Court contest is getting the most attention – and the most campaign cash – but there's another race on the ballot, too. That race pits Justice Jim Rice, the longest-serving justice on the Supreme Court, against Bill D'Alton, a Billings attorney who has pledged to serve only one term and hasn't raised a penny for his campaign. Rice won the nonpartisan primary with 78% of the vote to D'Alton's 28%. Both advanced to the November election. According to the mos...

  • Politics raises the stakes in Gustafson-Brown high court race

    Keely Larson, Community News Service, UM School of Journalism|Updated Oct 24, 2022

    Montana voters will decide two Supreme Court races this fall, and one is attracting an unusual share of partisan attention. In that race, incumbent Justice Ingrid Gustafson, with 18 years of experience as a judge, faces challenger James Brown, current president of the Public Service Commission and former legal counsel to the Montana Republican Party. Although Brown has never been a judge, GOP endorsements have ranged from Republicans Gov. Greg Gianforte and U.S. Sen. Steve...

  • Initiative would make privacy of electronic data more explicit

    KEELY LARSON, Community News Service UM School of Journalism|Updated Oct 19, 2022

    Proponents say this year's constitutional amendment on the ballot will update Montanans' right to privacy for the 21st century, but opponents and analysts are wondering what, if anything, it would actually change. The ballot initiative, C-48, would modify the privacy clause of the state constitution to include electronic data and communications explicitly, meaning police would need a search warrant to access cell phone or other electronic data. Sen. Kenneth Bogner, R-Miles...

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