Meaningful Change Possible

 

To the Editor, 

This week in Helena our legislators will have the historic opportunity to vote to make meaningful and positive changes in the health care delivery system in Montana. Our legislators will decide if they will expand Medicaid health insurance coverage to 70,000 low income Montanans who now have no insurance. These Montanans now without coverage and who would receive coverage by the expansion of Medicaid include dishwashers, childcare workers, restaurant cooks, teacher assistants, retail salespersons, security guards, agricultural workers, and over 9,500 military veterans and their spouses.The expansion of Medicaid coverage to these low income Montanans should not be a politically partisan issue, and should not be decided by whether we support or oppose Obamacare. The proposed Medicaid expansion would initially be 100% funded by the federal government until 2021, and after that the federal government will pay 90% of the cost. The bills now before the Montana legislature contain sensible “circuit breaker” provisions, meaning that new coverages would be terminated if the federal government did not live up to its promise to pay.

The expanded coverage would bring tremendous benefit to all Montanans, not just those who would be newly eligible for insurance coverage. The expanded coverage would add an average of $700 million annually to Montana’s GDP. This infusion of funds, according to a study by the Montana Hospital Association, would help create 12,000 additional well-paying jobs in Montana, and bring with them increases in tax revenues. The proposed expansion of health coverage will save health care dollars in the state and improve the overall health of Montanans. Caregivers now absorb the loss when someone without insurance obtains medical care, whether by visiting the emergency room or a doctor’s office. When there is no insurance and the bill for services cannot be paid, the hospitals incur bad debt, and must cover their losses to stay in business. These losses present great and potentially damaging problems for a great many of our Montana hospitals, and especially those in our many rural communities. And the increase in insurance premiums is a hardship for most everyone. People with health care insurance are healthier people, more often seeing a physician before medical problems become critical, costing less to treat and they are not the prime contributor for the increases in medical care costs we struggle to deal with in this country.
Many states which at first vehemently opposed any expansion of Medicaid coverage have now reversed their positions, wisely realizing that this expansion of coverage is the best thing to do for everyone in their states. Whether or not Montana agrees to expand Medicaid coverage will not make a difference to the existence of Obamacare. 

The time is now. Refusing to expand this coverage will simply mean that money Montanans pay in taxes will be sent to the states who have made the decision to expand this coverage.

Steve Muth
Red Lodge