Opinion

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Guest Column

A Healthier Montana Means a Healthier Workforce

Thankfully, in Montana, over 93,000 people are receiving affordable, quality health care from Montana’s innovative, bipartisan approach at expanded Medicaid

We can’t have a competitive workforce without a healthy workforce. And a healthy workforce depends on the individual health of each of its citizens.

Until recently, too many of our fellow Montanans lived each day knowing that access to health care was beyond their reach. They avoided regular checkups and screenings, and instead, were forced to the emergency room to access expensive, difficult to treat care.

When you’re not healthy, it’s difficult to stay on the job and be a productive member of the workforce.

Thankfully, in Montana, over 93,000 of our friends, family and neighbors are receiving affordable, quality health care from Montana’s innovative, bipartisan approach at expanded Medicaid.

The benefits of the services these thousands of Montanans receive is beyond just health – it’s far reaching into our state’s economy.

The University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research recently prepared for The Montana Healthcare Foundation and Headwaters Foundation an independent analysis on these economic benefits.

They found that since implemented, Montana’s Medicaid has infused more than $500 million into our state’s economy, generated 5,000 new jobs annually, and generated almost $300 million in new personal income, doing so each year through 2020. All this while our uninsured rate has significantly declined and uncompensated care costs have decreased by nearly 45 percent.

They also found that our unique approach has helped to increase labor force participation among low-income Montanans by 6-9 percent. We launched the HELP-Link program at the Montana Department of Labor and Industry to connect Montanans with workforce training and employment services – and it’s worked.

These Montanans aren’t just getting the care they need to be healthy, they are also getting the one-on-one assistance, training referrals, and job opportunities they need to climb up the economic ladder. Most Medicaid enrollees are already working, we are helping to increase their wages.

Montana’s Medicaid has provided a vehicle for thousands of individuals to get treated early if they get sick or seek treatment for mental health. Access to preventative screenings saves money down the road, and gets people the care that keeps them full, productive members of their community. Increasing access to health coverage prevents family illness or health problems from turning into bankruptcy or loss of home.

Over 93,000 Montanans now have access to health care, some for the first time in their lives. Our workforce is stronger, and so is our economy through the numerous benefits realized through Montana’s Medicaid.

Sheila Hogan is the director of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services; Galen Hollenbaugh is the director of the Montana Department of Labor & Industry.

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