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Medicaid expansion critical for Montana healthcare

Editor,

The Medicaid expansion program that our legislature adopted in 2015 was the result of a fair and balanced bipartisan compromise between legislators and resulted in over 96,000 Montanans obtaining affordable healthcare benefits. It is not hard to imagine what a relief this program meant to previously uninsured families where the difference between having and not having affordable health insurance could easily mean life or death.

Beyond just helping Montana families, Medicaid expansion has been a savior for our struggling state healthcare system. When an uninsured individual lands in the emergency room, the hospital is legally required to treat that individual and must foot the bill if the individual cannot pay. This places a tremendous burden on all of our hospitals and clinics, especially in our smaller, rural healthcare facilities.

Prior to Montana adopting Medicaid expansion, uncompensated care threatened the solvency of many health centers across the state. Now, our health centers can bill Medicaid for services they were previously required to give out for free, and they can reinvest those funds into raising the quality of care for all in the form of new staff, equipment and facilities. However, without renewing Medicaid expansion to cover the state’s uninsured all Montanans would suffer, both insured and uninsured, since a number of our healthcare facilities would possibly close or be less capable of providing state of the art care.

This is a bipartisan program that has worked for our state. We need to continue the program adopted in 2015 and improve it, if possible, to enable more Montanans, not fewer, to have healthcare so all Montanans can live healthier, more fulfilling lives. Our state healthcare system, supported by federal Medicaid expansion dollars, is the strongest it’s been in years. We can’t go back to the way things were. The legislature must lift the sunset on Medicaid expansion.

Craig McClure
Polson

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