MTPR

health insurance

More than 60,000 Montanans now have health insurance because of the HELP Act, the Medicaid expansion program narrowly passed by state lawmakers in 2015. The oversight committee in charge of reviewing that program met in Helena on Tuesday to check in on the Medicaid expansion. 

John Goodnow, chair of the oversight committee, says because of the HELP Act, a lot of uninsured Montanans now have coverage: 

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.

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.

Montana health insurance market breakdown.
Courtesy Montana Commissioner of Securities Insurance

State Insurance Commissioner Monica Lindeen says the health insurance premiums one company is charging in Montana next year are, “unreasonable,” and that those proposed by two other companies were too low and needed to be adjusted upward.

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.

More than 47,000 Montanans have enrolled in the expanded Medicaid program state lawmakers narrowly approved last year. The state health department reported updated numbers to the legislative committee that oversees Medicaid expansion today.

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

 Governor Steve Bullock projects Montana taxpayers could save about $25 million dollars because of the way it manages medical costs for its state employees.

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