It’s what’s best for Montana. Expanding health care protects our neighbors, providers, and our community hospitals. In Montana, our rural and safety-net facilities continue to be pushed toward the breaking point by the ever-growing costs of caring for the uninsured. By accepting federal dollars to expand access to health care to over 60,000 Montanans, we can avoid the increased insurance premiums and other costs we all incur when those without insurance show up in our emergency rooms and provider offices.
The math matters. The first three years of expansion are completely covered by the federal government with dollars Montana taxpayers and health care providers are already paying. After that, Montana’s contributions are relatively small. When you consider reductions in the costs of caring for the uninsured, and the effects of increased economic activity, expanding health care could actually save Montana money.
It creates jobs and boosts our economy. As newly insured Montanans seek health care, there will be an increase in the demand for doctors, nurses, and medical support staff. Health care providers can hire new employees, who will then spend their paychecks in local businesses. These additional dollars flowing on Main Streets across Montana allow our businesses to grow. Estimates show expanding Medicaid could add 14,000 jobs and generate $4 billion in labor income in Montana. So, what starts as a small investment in Medicaid expansion actually triggers a chain reaction of economic activity across our state.
The money is there. Montana taxpayers and providers have actually been helping to pay for expansion since 2008. From lower provider payments for Medicare and Medicaid, to taxes on certain health plans and fees for employers who fail to provide insurance, the federal government has established multiple funding streams that cover the costs of expansion. Expanding Medicaid is Montana’s opportunity to get back the money we’ve already been paying and will continue to pay. If we don’t take those dollars, they will be redirected to other states like New Jersey and California to generate jobs and provide health care for their residents.
It’s an investment in our workers and vital industries. Extending access to health care through Medicaid expansion has an incredible impact on Montana’s core industries. Providing coverage to our currently uninsured ranchers, hotel and restaurant staff, child care workers, and caregivers for the elderly means these employees go to work healthy and miss work less often. Plus, with access to the care they need, these employees can be more productive, helping to grow Montana’s businesses and make them more competitive. Medicaid expansion is an investment in the workers and businesses that make Montana, Montana.
We can’t let families fall in the gap. Starting soon, many people with higher incomes will receive tax credits to help them afford private health insurance. In states that chose expansion, individuals with lower incomes will be able to access coverage through Medicaid. However, if Montana turns down the federal dollars, this group of lower income earners will actually fall into a ‘coverage gap.’ In other words, they will earn too little to get tax credits to help them purchase private insurance, but too much to qualify for the old standards of Medicaid. The end result is tens of thousands of Montana’s families who will continue to be uninsured, putting their health and financial futures at risk.