Medicaid expansion to benefit county residents

Clark Fork Valley Press, May 8, 2015

MINERAL COUNTY – Financial assistance with health care for low-income residents of Mineral County will finally be available after languishing for years in a legislative quagmire after Governor Steve Bullock signed a bill last week to expand Medicaid to approximately 70,000 Montanans.

The move to expand Medicaid eligibility to low-income residents of Mineral County was lauded by one local health care official as a positive measure that should alleviate some of the financial strain on an area that is already economically depressed. Mineral Community Hospital Chief Executive Officer Ron Gleason said he expected the measure to affect over 300 people in Mineral County.

He also said the impact is expected to benefit the county in other ways according to information compiled by the Montana Budget and Policy Center.

“The information indicates an expected increase in jobs of around 60,” Gleason said. “They are saying because of the additional money that will be available in the county, that it will have about a $2.4 million impact on Mineral County. Right now there are about 680 people in the county that are Medicaid recipients. That’s about 16 percent of the population in Mineral County. That is a big number.”

According to the information from the Montana Budget and Policy Center, the health insurance coverage will cost little to the state of Montana.

The federal government covers 100 percent of the costs for the first three years and no less than 90 percent after that time period.

The information further states, “as newly insured Montanans seek health care, there will be an increase in the demand for doctors, nurses and other medical support staff. Health care providers can hire new employees who will then spend their paychecks in local businesses. In Mineral County, expansion could add over 60 jobs and generate $2.395 million in labor income annually.”

Gleason said the demographic expected to be impacted the most in Mineral County was single individuals without families or dependents.

“The biggest impact will be on individuals,” Gleason said. “The way this is planned to work is, if you fall into that gap where you are an individual, childless adult and you fall into one of these low-income categories you are going to be paying two percent of your income to be on this program. The big impact will be on the individual people of Mineral County who will qualify for some kind of coverage now.”

Another local health care official familiar with the legislation and its affect on the people of Mineral County was Health Center Interim Chief Executive Officer Kim Mansch.

She said she and other health care experts were viewing Bullock’s signing of Medicaid expansion as an extremely positive turn of events.

“A lot of times we see people who wait to go see a doctor until it becomes an emergency situation,” Mansch said. “The results can be devastating and even more costly than preventative care.”

Mansch said eligible individuals could be able to enroll as soon as Fall 2015 with benefits going into affect in January 2016.

She also reiterated Gleason’s point regarding who in Mineral County would be most greatly affected by the Medicaid expansion.

“This will be very beneficial for the elderly and those with low income,” Mansch said.

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