Missoulian, April 29, 2015
Montanans love to talk about how special our state is. For those from some place other than Montana, you may think that we mean our beautiful mountains, the vast golden prairies and incredible blue sky that never seems to end. And you would be right — we do mean that. But what really makes Montana special is the people.
The people of our state are kind and generous. We are the type of people who celebrate together during the good times, and look out for each other when times get tough.
Montana is particularly lucky because the people can dramatically change the direction and future of our state. Over the last few months, it was clear that the people of our state stepped up and did just that. They talked and our legislature listened. The Montana Legislature passed the Health and Economic Livelihood Partnership (HELP) Act (SB 405). This bill is compromise legislation to extend health care coverage to low-income Montanans who need it, and the governor has indicated that he will sign it as soon as it reaches his desk.
We are a group of organizations that have spent the past two and a half years working to expand access to affordable health care for the lowest-income Montanans. And we will forever be grateful to you, the people of Montana, for making your voices heard.
It was you who made more than 10,000 calls and emails to your legislators in support of Medicaid expansion. More than 150 of you submitted letters to the editor and opinion editorials. More than 300 of you came to the Capitol to testify. You kept the conversation going on social media. Hundreds of you came to rally on the Capitol steps or walk the halls talking to your legislators. It was you who passed Medicaid expansion.
Montana will be a better place because you made your voices heard. This legislation will help create thousands of new jobs. Montanans will be healthier and more productive because when people have health care, medical problems are more likely to be treated earlier and illnesses are less likely to affect one’s ability to work. Our rural hospitals will be able to keep their doors open because more people will have insurance to cover medical expenses. Montana tax dollars will come back to our state to boost our economy. And most importantly, tens of thousands of Montanans will be able to get the health care they need and deserve.
Never forget that when you talk – and sometimes it has to be loud and often – but if you talk loud and often enough, your elected representatives will listen.
Montana thanks you.
Sarah Howell writes on behalf of Montana Women Vote; this opinion is also signed by the following organizations: Montana Human Rights Network, Montana Budget and Policy Center, Montana Primary Care Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, Montana Organizing Project, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Montana, Western Native Voice, SEIU 775, MHA … An Association of Montana Health Care Providers, and AARP Monta