Providing health insurance to the estimated 70,000 hardworking Montanans earning less than $16,000 a year will promote prosperity and save lives. In the majority of states, Republicans and Democrats put aside partisan politics and expanded Medicaid to their low-income neighbors. It’s time Montana lawmakers do the same.
Everyone benefits from reducing the number of uninsured Montanans. Expanding coverage will not only boost our economy by creating a healthier and more productive population, it will reduce the overall cost of health care. Everyone who pays an insurance premium is helping offset the unpaid medical costs of those without health insurance. It’s a hidden tax on businesses and the privately insured, and lawmakers can curtail the expense by ensuring our federal tax dollars are being responsibly spent on progress at home.
Since Jan. 1, 2014, Montana has forfeited more than $516 million taxpayer dollars by not expanding Medicaid. It’s our money, and right now, it’s being used to pay for expansion in other states. Lawmakers have had four years to find a Montana solution to meaningful expansion. We’re calling for action.
Expanding Medicaid promotes self-management of a healthy lifestyle by ensuring individuals have access to timely and preventive care like cancer screenings, health risk assessments and behavioral counseling. This helps prevent minor health problems from becoming major – and very costly – health problems that could result in medical bankruptcies and extended absences from work. It is a vital component of creating a stronger Montana, where every citizen has access to high quality and affordable health care.
Montana’s health care providers are committed to improving the health of the communities they serve. Using available funds to provide health insurance to our lowest earners will help accomplish that goal. We hope the 2015 Montana Legislature knows a good deal when it sees it.
Dick Brown, president
Montana Hospital Association