More than 11,300 Missoula County residents on Medicaid; Legislature begins debate

Missoula Current

The Montana Legislature is set to begin one of this session’s biggest debates on Friday on whether to continue as is, or to change the state’s Medicaid expansion program to require recipients to have “skin in the game.”

As it does, the Montana Budget and Policy Center has released a new report with county-specific data, noting that more than 11,300 residents in Missoula County currently rely upon the program for health care.

Tara Jensen, co-director of public affairs for the nonprofit and nonpartisan center, said 3,508 of those Missoula County recipients have accessed workforce development services.

A bill proposed by Republican lawmakers would make it a requirement for all recipients, something Democrats oppose. The original program was established in 2015, providing access to Medicaid for adults living on incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty line, or $16,750 for a single adult.

“Each of Montana’s 56 counties is home to individuals, families and workers whose lives are better because of Medicaid expansion,” said Jensen. “However, benefits are not limited to individual health care. For example, 1,836 Missoula County businesses have someone receiving health care through Medicaid expansion, and healthier employees mean a better business.”

Local health providers have also administered 870 breast cancer screenings, 666 colon cancer screenings and 11,689 preventative services. Another 5,109 Medicaid recipients in Missoula County have accessed outpatient mental health services, while 883 have received treatment for substance abuse.

“Montana Medicaid is a proven success,” said Jensen. “Legislators in 2019 have all the facts they need to reauthorize this bipartisan, Montana-made health insurance program in its current form without harmful regulations that kick people off their health care coverage.”

Across the state, 96,000 residents have gained access to health coverage, and 92,380 Montanans have accessed over 300,000 preventive services, according to the center’s statistics.