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Lindeen: Cover More Working Families With Montana Medicaid

State program has proven track record of success

March 26, 2014

HELENA – Montana Insurance Commissioner Monica J. Lindeen formally threw her support Wednesday behind an effort to expand the Montana Medicaid program to cover more working families.

“I’ve travelled Montana from Browning to Billings answering Montanans’ questions about health insurance and I can tell you the lack of affordable coverage for working parents is something I hear about every single day,” Lindeen said. “Thousands of working parents in our state make too little to qualify for a tax credit and too much to qualify for Medicaid. They are truly left behind. The Montana Medicaid program is a solution made right here in Montana. We have decades of experience running this program and if Montana fails to expand it, we’ll only be passing our tax dollars onto other states.”

Lindeen formally endorsed Initiative I-170, the Healthy Montana Initiative, which would expand the Montana Medicaid program to cover tens of thousands of low income Montanans currently ineligible for health insurance tax credits.

Federal health care laws created insurance tax credits people can use to purchase health insurance in the private market. Those credits are only for households with income above 100 percent of the federal poverty line – or about $23,500 for a family of four.

Healthy Montana Kids offers insurance to the children of moderate-income Montanans, but under current laws the parents make too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to qualify for federal tax credits, leaving them uninsured.

Uninsured Montanans will continue to have medical needs, Lindeen said, and our hospitals will not turn them away. Instead, hospitals and providers will either incur those costs as a loss – or pass those costs along to everyone else. A report commissioned by Lindeen’s office last year concluded that failing to expand Montana Medicaid will lead to $104 million in unpaid medical care in the next seven years.

At the same time, Lindeen said, Montana’s hospitals are losing the federal funds they previously received to help offset the cost of such uncompensated care – putting small, rural hospitals especially at economic risk.

Covering more working Montanans would also create jobs – about 12,700 new health care jobs according to Lindeen’s study -- which would lead to between $477 million and $529 million in labor income generated yearly in Montana.