The Lewis and Clark City-County Board of Health strongly supports House Bill 425, to continue Medicaid expansion in Montana in its current form.

Since the Legislature approved Medicaid expansion in 2015, the program has proved its worth. It’s opened the door to health care for almost 96,000 low-income Montanans, giving them an incentive to seek preventive care and reduce costly visits to the emergency room. It’s substantially benefited the state’s economy and job growth, and it’s even reduced crime, according to economic researchers at the University of Montana.

Here in Lewis and Clark County, more than 5,600 people have enrolled in Medicaid expansion. That’s 8.6 percent of our neighbors who stand to lose health care if the Legislature doesn’t pass HB 425.

What are these county residents doing with their newfound coverage? According to the state health department, almost 2,500 of them got treatment for mental health disorders. More than 700 got treatment for substance use issues, and almost 1,000 were screened for breast and/or colorectal cancer.

We believe everyone should have the opportunity to be healthy. Not only does good health benefit the individual, it benefits all of us. Healthy people are able to pursue education and play a productive role in the workforce and community affairs.

We’re becoming a better place to live because of Medicaid expansion. Join us in urging the Legislature to keep up this encouraging momentum.

This opinion is signed by Jim Benish, City-County Board of Health chair, and board members Wilmot Collins, Jenny Eck, Andy Hunthausen, Justin Murgel, Dr. Adron Medley, Kammy Johnson, Tyler Ream and Scott St. Clair.

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