MTPR

Affordable Care Act

Montana Capitol dome.
William Marcus

Montana’s Medicaid expansion program got a progress report today from an oversight committee of lawmakers and health care professionals. While the state’s uninsured rate continues to drop, the job services aspect of the HELP Act isn’t doing as well as supporters had hoped.

Job Service officies statewide, like this one in Kalispell, are offering special help to new Medicaid recipients
Eric Whitney

Medicaid expansion barely passed Montana's Legislature last year. One of the reasons it was able to get enough Republican votes is because it included a component to encourage Medicaid recipients to get jobs, or better-paying jobs, so they could get off of Medicaid and buy their own health insurance.

Tuesday afternoon, a legislative oversight committee is taking a look at how that work component is going.

St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula.
Courtesy St. Patrick Hospital

In 2015, the Montana Hospital Association enthusiastically backed Medicaid expansion in Montana. A big reason was that in the first half of the year, they gave away nearly $71 million in free, or “charity” healthcare to people who had no health coverage.

After the legislature narrowly passed Medicaid expansion, Hospital Association President Dick Brown says, "the actual expectation was that charity care would go down, because a lot of the individuals who are now on Medicaid were receiving care at no cost to them, because they couldn’t afford it."

Mary Lynne Billy-Old Coyote is the new director of Montana's Office of American Indian Health.
Courtesy Montana DPHHS

In Montana, the life expectancy for Native American people is 19 to 20 years shorter than for whites. The median age at death for Native men here is 56. It's 62 for Native women.

Those statistics, in part, motivated Governor Steve Bullock last year to create a new position in the state health department: Director of American Indian Health.

U.S. House candidates Denise Juneau and Ryan Zinke stand on stage at Frazer High School for their first debate on August 29, 2016
Jackie Yamanaka - Yellowstone Public Radio

The first debate between Montana’s major party candidates for its lone seat in the U.S. House was last night. It was colored by both national politics and the very local concerns of the community that hosted it — the tiny town of Frazer on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in northeast Montana.

Health insurance companies selling individual policies in Montana say they have to raise their prices next year. But the federal government says it won’t be as bad as the headlines suggest. The Obama administration says most Americans don’t have to worry about possible spikes in premium rates next year.

Commissioner of Securities & Insurance Monica Lindeen.
Eric Whitney

If you want to know why health insurance companies in Montana are asking for big price increases on some of the policies they sell here next year, there are some easy answers – but they only tell part of the story.

Gov. Bullock signs the Medicaid expansion plan into law on April 29 at the captiol. The bill's sponsor Sen. Ed Buttrey, and supporter Stephanie Wallace look on.
Steve Jess

Backers of Montana’s seven-month-old Medicaid expansion say they’re pleased with the first set of financial data released this week.

State figures say enrollment as of July is nearly double initial projections, at 47,399 of the 25,000 who were expected to enroll by now.

The number of Montanans without health insurance has dropped by half in the last year. That's according to State Auditor Monica Lindeen.

The three health insurance companies that sell individual policies in Montana say they need to increase their prices significantly next year. They're asking Montana's Health Insurance Commissioner Monica Lindeen to approve average premium increases for individual health plans that range from 20 to 62 percent. In the small group market, the insurers are proposing premium increases of three percent to 32 percent. 

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