Medicaid Expansion for Montana Needs Federal Approval First

Billings Gazette, April 30, 2015


Montana has officially signed into law a Medicaid expansion plan, but you can’t sign up just yet. The new law requires approval from federal authorities, so there are still more steps in the process.

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services will have a public comment period on a draft of the waiver application. Then, it’ll be finalized and sent to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services for approval. After approval, the state will need to write administrative rules and get a third party administrator to manage the expanded program. If the waiver application isn’t approved, then they would have to go back to square one, meaning going back to the legislature again.

If everything goes smoothly, Schneeman says people should be able to sign up at the end of this year and coverage could begin as early as 2016.

“It’s life saving,” says Barbara Schneeman, VP of Communications at RiverStone Health. “And it’s really wonderful that the state of Montana through the legislative process really did expand eligibility for Medicaid services to people who fell into that Medicaid gap.”

For now, they don’t know how signing up will work, until they have a third party administrator in place. It’s estimated this expansion of health care would cover 70,000 Montanans who fall into the Medicaid gap.

Mike Foster, regional director of advocacy for St. Vincent Healthcare, says the bill is important to provide health care. He says, if the law is approved, it is also beneficial to hospitals statewide.

“So, we’re thrilled that this has happened because it definitely will improve the quality of life for those people that sign up and hopefully all 70,000 will sign up,” Foster says.

According to the Montana Budget and Policy Center, more than 7,200 adults in Yellowstone County would be eligible under this expanded care. People who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line would be eligible to apply, meaning, if you’re a family of four and make up to $33,465, you are eligible.

Schneeman suggests staying up-to-date with all of the developments in this process

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