In a historic election in November of 2020, Montana voters elected the state’s first unified Republican government in 16 years. Exit polls showed that Montana voters were mainly driven by concern about the state of the economy. The Frontier Institute anticipated that lawmakers would be extremely motivated to enact robust economic reforms to deliver on the will of the voters after an overwhelming election, but lack of consensus around specific free-market policies would pose a significant obstacle to delivering these reforms.
To address this challenge, Frontier developed and promoted the Montana Recovery Agenda—an extensive report outlining eight specific policy proposals aimed at limiting government growth, reforming the state’s healthcare system, and protecting individual rights. With aligned goals, Frontier hoped that policymakers could rely on the powerful information and research in the Montana Recovery Agenda to guide their policy decisions and build consensus.
The Frontier Institute focused on direct and timely personal outreach to policymakers, targeting the transition period when new Montana officeholders had finished election activities and started to focus on the legislative session. Specifically, Frontier knew that the governor-elect’s transition team would have to prioritize immediate needs such as staff hires and agency decisions before deciding on policy priorities.
By delivering the Montana Recovery Agenda to lawmakers during this crucial transition period, Frontier was able to get ahead of the decision curve and have an outsized impact on policy decisions. After reviewing the Montana Recovery Agenda, Recovery Agenda recommendations quickly became some of the flagship priorities for the Montana legislative majority. Seven out of eight specific recommendations were ultimately enacted by policymakers in 2021.
1. The Montana Governor’s first executive order followed Frontier Institute recommendations, creating an independent task force to address Montana’s burden of harmful red tape and regulations. Additionally, the order cited research promoted in the Montana Recovery Agenda word for word, showing Frontier’s ideas had a direct impact. The governor’s office has continued to seek Frontier’s guidance as their team assembles the task force and outlines their plan for reform.
2. Lawmakers were also quick to embrace Frontier’s model for a Conservative Montana Budget, with both the Governor and legislative leaders frequently citing Frontier’s measure of population growth plus inflation as the fiscal benchmark for a conservative budget. The budget passed this session followed Frontier’s recommendations by keeping spending growth for the biennium well below 4.4 percent, a substantial reduction compared to average growth for the last 16 years.
3. Repealing Montana’s certificate-of-need (CON) laws for healthcare businesses. CON laws are regulations that require healthcare providers to get special permission from the government before adding or expanding healthcare services or facilities. These laws harm patients and taxpayers, who face higher healthcare costs and fewer options.
4. Passing the nation’s most expansive authorization of Direct Patient Care (DPC). DPC is a growing direct care model where Montana patients bypass insurance entirely to pay doctors, in the form of a membership, in exchange for unlimited access to primary care services for as little as $70 per month. Many low-income families struggle to afford healthcare in Montana. DPC gives these families an affordable option so they can access the quality healthcare they deserve.
5. Permanently repealing telehealth regulations that had been waived during the coronavirus.
6. Repealing Montana’s ban on physicians dispensing prescribed medicine directly. Before this bill passed, Montana was one of only five other states that prohibited doctors from dispensing the medicine they prescribe in most instances, requiring patients to make an additional trip to the pharmacy.
7. Major advancements in data privacy, including a voter referendum to update Montana’s constitutional protections for privacy to include digital privacy and expanding Montana’s warrant protections for third party data.
For their sound research and success in convincing policymakers to adopt reforms that will help millions of Montanans, The Frontier Institute is a finalist in State Policy Network’s Bob Williams Awards for Outstanding Policy Achievement, in the Most Influential Research category.