This week, our Republican and Democratic state legislators notched a victory for Montanans. Working together with the governor's office, they agreed on legislation that would permanently reauthorize Medicaid expansion. This is good news for Montana, and a triumph for bipartisanship.
Republicans and Democrats were able to find common ground on this issue because both parties recognize that Medicaid expansion works for Montana. Since its passage in 2015, the Montana HELP Act has provided affordable health care to more than 96,000 working Montanans. As part of that program, over 25,000 Montanans have enrolled in workforce training programs to help them get back to work. And as a result, Montana has seen a 6 percent reduction in the number of previously disabled Montanans that have rejoined the workforce.
Having access to affordable health care means that Montanans get the preventative services we know save lives. Through the HELP Act, almost 8,200 women have received breast cancer screening, leading to an earlier diagnosis for 114 of them. Add to that over 7,000 Montanans screened for colon cancer, and almost 1,000 Montanans diagnosed and treated for diabetes. Medicaid expansion has also provided mental health services to 32,000 Montanans, and substance abuse services to over 8,000.
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Our legislators deserve credit for finding a health care solution that works for Montanans. As a physician, I want to express my sincere thanks for their hard work in forging legislation that makes financial sense for the state and keeps our workforce healthy and strong.
Jason Cohen, MD, is a practicing hospitalist at North Valley Clinic in Whitefish.