An unprecedented cross section of 120 organizations and leaders, including patient advocates, mental health providers, nurses, hospitals, tribal health centers, disability advocates, faith leaders, and other health care service providers, publicly raised concerns about ongoing deliberations on health care and potential cuts to Montana’s Medicaid program. The signers of the message used ads printed in the Bozeman Chronicle and Great Falls Tribune to call on Senator Daines to reject any bill that would cut Medicaid, eliminate Montana’s bipartisan Medicaid expansion, or result in the loss of coverage for millions of Americans.
The ad included numerous patient advocates like the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Lung Association, and the American Heart Association.
“We know that having access to quality, affordable health insurance is a key determinant in surviving cancer. While the current law needs improvement, its greatest achievement has been getting more uninsured people the coverage that meets their needs,” said Kristin Page Nei of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. “We urge the Senate to reject the flawed House bill and work together to find ways to stabilize the insurance market, retain patient protections and reduce rather than increase premiums, so we can improve our health care system and protect cancer patients.”
Signors also included nearly every association representing health providers, including hospitals, doctors, nurses, pediatricians, family physicians, primary care clinics, and public health officials.
John Goodnow, CEO of Benefis Health System called on a rejection of the Medicaid provisions being considered by Congress. “The Senate must reject federal caps and cuts that will hurt our most vulnerable Montanans – like low-income children, seniors, and people with disabilities, and the over 75,000 Montanans who have benefited from the expansion of Medicaid in Montana,” said Goodnow. “Proposals to cap federal Medicaid funds will devastate not only Montana’s Medicaid and Medicaid expansion patients but also health care providers, particularly small rural hospitals and the rural communities they serve.”
The breadth and the depth of the signers requesting that the Senate reject cuts to Medicaid speaks to the enormity of what is at stake for Montana patients and providers. Since passage of Montana’s bipartisan Medicaid expansion, the uninsured rate in Montana has dropped to 7.4% in 2016, from 20% in 2012, according to the Montana Commissioner of Securities and Insurance.
“We have seen Montana’s uninsured rate fall significantly since passage of Medicaid expansion,” said Matt Kuntz of NAMI MT. “Thousands of Montanans now have access to ongoing and mental health and addiction treatment for the first time ever. We can’t afford to go backwards.”
The House passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA) in May. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office projected that the AHCA would result in over 20 million Americans losing coverage and over $800 billion in cuts from Medicaid over ten years. More recently, the Montana Healthcare Foundation projected that the state of Montana would lose $4.8 billion in federal Medicaid support by 2026 putting significant pressure on the state budget and likely forcing deep cuts in benefits, enrollment, and payments to hospitals and providers. The Healthcare Foundation also projected over 70,000 Montanans would lose Medicaid coverage.
Unfortunately, the Senate version, released on Thursday after weeks of secretive, back room meetings, retains many of the most harmful features of the House bill, including cuts to Medicaid funding and the phasing out of Medicaid expansion.