This session we have made Medicaid expansion a top priority. House Bill 249, also known as the Healthy Montana Plan, will be heard this week in committee. There are 70,000 Montanans counting on us to work together to pass HB 249.
Rep. Pat Noonan of House District 74 in Butte is the sponsor for HB249, a uniquely Montana solution to our state’s Medicaid problem. The plan will provide coverage to the 70,000 Montanans living without health insurance. These 70,000 people include our friends, family members and neighbors. Montana has the highest percentage of uninsured veterans in the nation. Expanding Medicaid will fix this and provide health care to over 9,000 veterans and their family members in Montana. HB249 helps working families who can hardly make ends meet get the health coverage they need. Medicaid expansion supports Montana’s strong families and strong communities.
Medicaid expansion will also address the critical mental health issues our state is facing. HB249 will help improve our capacity to care for individuals living with mental illness. The 70,000 individuals living without health care include many Montanans that suffer from mental health issues. Providing them with health care coverage will help them get the care they need.
Passing Medicaid expansion is the fiscally responsible thing to do for Montana. The funds to expand Medicaid come from taxes we have already paid. If we do not pass HB249, our money could go to another state, like California or New Jersey. Montanans will continue to receive less preventative care and delay treatment due to high costs. As a result, they will have worse health outcomes, higher financial burdens and raise health care costs for all of us.
“In our communities there is no substitute for the helping hand or the kind heart. That’s what Healthy Montana is all about, simply loving your neighbor’s family as your own,” Rep. Noonan has said.
In Lewis and Clark County there are 2,795 uninsured adults eligible for Medicaid expansion. It is anticipated that expanding Medicaid will create 530 more jobs per year as the demand for health care workers increases. If Montana fails to expand Medicaid, the 2,795 people in Lewis and Clark County -- mainly parents and other adults working for low wages without health insurance -- will make too much to qualify for Medicaid in its current form, but will make too little to be eligible for tax credits to purchase private insurance. They will be left with no viable options, stuck in the middle and left to face an inefficient health care system.
The Republicans have presented an alternative plan to expand Medicaid, which will cost more of Montanan’s tax dollars and provides less coverage to less people. It does not solve the real issue at hand. The bills they are proposing are not focused on how to provide health care for Montana citizens. It is a political strategy to prevent Medicaid expansion that will leave Montanans without the care they need.
The people of Montana have spoken, and they strongly support Medicaid expansion. It is our responsibility as legislators to ensure that all Montanans have access to high quality health care. The Healthy Montana Plan will improve the livelihood of thousands of Montanans. The answer is simple: it is fiscally and morally the right thing to do. We hope you will join us in supporting Medicaid expansion so that our neighbors, friends and family members can access the health care they need.
Rep. Mary Ann Dunwell (HD 84), Sen. Mary Caferro (SD 41), Sen. Jill Cohenour (SD 42), Sen. Christine Kaufmann (SD 40).