Montana is leaving a lot of money on the table. So are other states that haven’t expanded their Medicaid program for low-income residents as the Affordable Care Act provided.
Since Jan 1, 2014, Montana has been forfeiting about $2 million per day in federal funds that could provide health insurance for around 69,000 low-income families and individuals. By Christmas of 2014, this means over $700 million has been forfeited, money that could have been supporting local hospitals and strengthening both the health and the economies of our communities.
The results and consequences are severe.
About 69,000 Montanans are left in the “coverage gap.” They can’t afford private health insurance because they are unable to receive premium assistance. They aren’t eligible for traditional Medicaid coverage. And they likely work for an employer that doesn’t provide health insurance.
Those in the “coverage gap” are often unable to obtain needed medical services, checkups, and prescriptions. Their health often worsens until they become extremely ill and costly.
Hospitals and other providers are left with significant uncompensated care for the uninsured. That causes expenses for those with insurance to rise.
About 300 rural hospitals across the US are on the verge of closing due to financial issues, with a lack of Medicaid expansion as one major cause, according to the National Rural Health Association. In addition to compromising the health of rural people, a hospital closure causes job losses, lost economic activity, and lost community vibrancy in rural communities. A rural community hospital closure costs about $1,000 in per capita income. Every man, woman, and child in a rural community loses when the hospital shuts down.
Forfeiting $2 million per day means Montanans are helping to pay for the health insurance of residents in 28 states and the District of Columbia who have chosen to implement the Affordable Care Act and provide coverage for their low-income residents. Montana taxpayers are paying the bill for New Yorkers, Californians, Coloradans, Iowans, and others with none of the benefits.
Please check out medicaidcounter.org to view how much Montana is losing every second, and how some other non-expansion states compare. It is time for Montana to bring our tax dollars home!
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