Top Five Reasons Montana Should Expand Health Coverage Through Medicaid

Montana has the chance to provide 70,000 people with high-quality health coverage by accepting federal funding to expand Medicaid to those whose incomes are less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level.  For a single person, this means earning less than $15,857, and for a family a three, less than $26,951.

Here’s why it’s such a good idea:

1. It will support our economy and help create jobs.

Offering more people health coverage through Medicaid would bring in nearly $6 billion in federal funds to Montana between now and 2021. This will help strengthen our economy, by providing insurance to workers in Montana’s key industries, such as tourism, construction, and ranching. Additionally, expansion will help bring 12,000 jobs to our state annually.

 2. It will benefit Indian Country.

Over half of Montana’s American Indians between the ages of 18-64 lack health coverage. But with expansion, nearly 20,000 American Indians in Montana will be eligible to enroll in Medicaid. Expansion will also provide a much needed economic boost to tribal communities. Additionally, it will help to improve services at Indian Health Services (IHS) facilities by freeing up funds for essential services such as mammograms that had been previously spent on the uninsured.

3. Veterans and their families will have better access to health care.

Montana has the highest percentage of uninsured veterans (17.3 percent) in the country.  Even for those with coverage through Veterans Affairs, Montana VA facilities are few and far between, making it difficult for many veterans to get the care they need. With expansion, approximately 9,500 veterans and their families will gain access to health care.

4. Medicaid is quality health care.

Medicaid is an effective and efficient program. Not only does it improve access to health care and the health of those who use it, it also delivers high-quality insurance with significantly lower administrative costs than private insurance.

5. It will improve the lives and health of tens of thousands of Montanans.

Most importantly, expanding Medicaid would improve the lives and the health of 70,000 Montanans, helping to build healthy communities and a stronger state. It’s time for Montana to act.

Welcome to “Charted Territory”

MT road sign

Welcome to Charted Territory, the new blog from the Montana Budget and Policy Center.

Montana is at a crossroads. We face many challenges – reducing poverty, growing our economy, creating jobs, and ensuring access to health care. There are so many possible directions we could turn that sometimes it feels like we are lost in uncharted territory.

We aim to give Montanans a map to these crucial issues, using accurate information and clear, non-partisan analysis to provide timely commentary. Here, you will find straightforward talk about events and decisions that impact the lives of Montanans, and our nation as a whole. We’ll discuss trends in the Montana economy, the role that state and local taxes play in building strong communities and a vibrant economy, the difference that safety net programs make in helping families meet basic needs and giving them opportunities to move up the economic ladder, and much more. Of course, we’ll throw in a few charts along the way.

Any journey is more pleasant with companions, and we want you to share your thoughts and comments with us along the way. Check back often. You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter, and get regular updates through e-mail.

We hope you will enjoy the journey with us as we venture into Charted Territory.

Report Shows State-Funded Preschool Helps Economy

“Report Shows State-Funded Preschool Helps Economy,” ABC FOX Montana, December 11, 2013.

A new report shows if all children went to preschool, children would not only get a head start on their education, but it would save the state money.

The study, released on Wednesday by the Montana Budget and Policy Center, a non-profit research institute, shows Montana is one of only ten states with no state-funded preschool system.

With all of the activities offered at Discovery Preschool in Missoula, preschoolers have something to look forward every day.

Chambers of Commerce on Medicaid Expansion: In Their Own Words

At least 25 Chambers of Commerce across the country have supported Medicaid expansion, recognizing it as critical to businesses, workers, health care providers, and local economies.

Arizona – Arizona State Chamber Letter to Governor Brewer, signed by 12 other local Chambers (See also, Arizona Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Policy Brief: The Business Case for AHCCCS Expansion)

“A strong healthcare system is crucial to the economic health and vitality of the entire state. Thousands of good paying jobs with benefits depend on our state moving down the path [Governor Brewer] articulated. We stand with [Governor Brewer] and are prepared to strongly and vocally support [the] decision throughout this endeavor.”

Illinois- Laura Minzer of the Illinois State Chamber

“The expansion of Medicaid as originally envisioned by the Affordable Care Act is the best way to mitigate additional cost pressures on employers and consumers in the near term… if the state were to forgo expansion, employers would face greater penalty exposure.”

Missouri- Governor Nixon, speaking on behalf of Chambers of Commerce in Kansas City, Independence, Springfield, Lee’s Summit and St. Louis, as well as the Civic Council of Greater Kansas City, Kirksville REDI, and the Associated Industries of Missouri

“The Missouri Chamber of Commerce supports the Medicaid expansion – not because they’re big supporters of this President and his agenda – but because it’s the smart thing to do. For these business leaders, this is not a political decision. It’s an economic one. And we shouldn’t let last year’s politics get in the way of next year’s economic growth.”

Ohio- Press Release, “Ohio Chamber Backs Medicaid Expansion” (also supported by Greater Cleveland Partnership (a regional Chamber of Commerce) and the Columbus Chamber of Commerce)

“The question of whether or not to expand Medicaid is a complex one; however, doing so is ultimately the right decision… Due to cost shifting resulting from uncompensated care, employers are already paying a hidden tax that makes their health insurance premiums higher than they should be. Without expansion, this cost shifting would be even more severe.”

Tennessee- Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, release of 2013 legislative agenda (see also the Chamber’s Briefing Paper on Medicaid Expansion)

“Chamber officials say their support for Medicaid expansion is based on the ideas that it would bring billions of new federal dollars that are already obligated for health care into Tennessee — helping to create jobs and consumer spending — and that the move will help hospitals better absorb reimbursement cuts and the cost of uncompensated care they provide.”

Virginia: Opinion by Barry E. DuVal, president and CEO of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce

“As the state’s leading business organization, the Virginia Chamber of Commerce views itself as the guardian of our state’s reputation for being the best for business. . . . In the case of Medicaid reform and extension of coverage to the uninsured, the best path in our judgment is to move forward with reforming our state’s largest health insurance program and extending health care coverage to hundreds of thousands of uninsured Virginians, primarily from working families.”