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I disagree with Gov. Bullock’s proposal to eliminate Medicaid funding for many adult dental and other health care services. Elderly, disabled, and seriously mentally ill Montanans are our most vulnerable families and neighbors. They need this care to protect their health. The governor would also reduce reimbursements to all health care providers who treat these patients. That severally limits their access to much needed care.

If these dental services are eliminated, elderly adults in nursing homes or living at home and disabled adults in group homes will go without dentures or other needed care for their teeth. Without good oral health, they are much more likely to become sicker, leading to increased costs for their care.

The Legislative Finance Committee unanimously voted to ask the governor to consider budget reductions that have the least impact on Montana’s most vulnerable population. I agree with those legislators, but that’s not what the governor has proposed.

There are bipartisan alternatives. Legislators and the governor should consider changing the ending fund balance in the state’s checking account and bumping up the tax on cigarettes and tobacco to fund health care, a measure an overwhelming majority of Montanans support. When that’s done, the governor should make other cuts to non-essential state spending, not cuts that hurt people.

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Let’s support the governor and legislators in working for a bipartisan fix to the budget without taking away needed dental care and other healthcare services our families and neighbors depend on to survive.

Dr. Kevin L. Rencher of Helena is president of the Montana Dental Association. 

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