The Roundup -

Medicaid Expansion Good Idea for Montanans

 


In the state of Montana there are currently over 43,000 uninsured working men and women who could benefit from Medicaid, if the program were to expand. Approximately 528 of those people reside within Richland County. Medicaid expansion, in fact, is one of the topics for the 2013 legislative session. Based on the needs of Montanans, Legislature will make a decision whether or not to accept the expansion.

The financial requirements to qualify for Medicaid are currently leaving many Montanans with no access to health insurance. Soon, many people with a higher income will receive a tax credit in order to afford private health insurance, while those with a lower income either have to qualify for Medicaid or not afford healthcare. If the expansion goes through, many who don’t currently qualify for Medicaid will be able to receive coverage.

Many people may think this would cost our government extra money, but Montana taxpayers have been supporting a Medicaid expansion since 2008. In face it will cost little to the state, as the federal government covers 100% of costs for the first three years and no less than 90% thereafter.  

Montanans will continue to pay for Medicaid expansion, but if the dollars are not accepted they will be redirected to other states that do accept the expansion. Many Montanans need the expansion in order to get health care coverage. In fact Montana has the highest percentage of uninsured veterans in the nation. Approximately 9,000 veterans have no insurance, while 5,000 only have VA healthcare. It is estimated that 9,500 veterans and their spouses would gain access to quality, affordable health care coverage if Medicaid is expanded. 

Kristie Smith, Director of Public Affairs with the Montana Budget and Policy Center, stated “It’s not only critical for our citizens, but for our economy.” The expansion would support the economy as more people would be seeking healthcare, which in turn would increase the demand for doctors, nurses, and other medical staff. A Medicaid expansion could add as many as 12,700 jobs annually throughout Montana and as many as 110 in Richland County. With the increase of jobs, the labor income will also increase to approximately $4,403,000 annually in Richland County. It is anticipated that throughout Montana, labor income will generate $4 billion in the first eight years.

Medicaid plays a vital role in supporting the healthcare economy in Montana and Richland County. Without the expansion, many Montanans will have worse health, higher financial burdens, and cause the healthcare costs to rise. Smith also stated she is “extremely hopeful that we will see Medicaid expansion happen in Montana. It’s just a smart opportunity.”

 

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