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Medicaid Expansion Has Saved Lives in Montana. Why Do Matt Rosendale and Greg Gianforte Want to End It?

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If Greg Gianforte and Matt Rosendale get their way, 96,656 Montanans will lose their health care coverage, coverage that has, in the past two years, helped avert thousands of cases of colon cancer, provide thousands treatment for diabetes, and given thousands of Montanans access to substance abuse treatment, along with creating jobs and keeping our rural hospitals vibrant.

The state of Montana has created a website that shows just how much the Medicaid expansion Gianforte and Rosendale would end has benefited the people of Montana. Just over 9% of the state has acquired health care coverage through Medicaid expansion, with counties suffering from higher rates of poverty getting coverage for as many as 20% of their population.

The website is an incredibly useful tool, letting Montanans understand just how many lives have been improved because of coverage expansion. It’s one thing to demagogue against health care access, but it’s another thing entirely to tell the eight people in Choteau County who averted colon cancer that their lives don’t matter. It’s one thing to argue that Montanans don’t deserve access to health care in the abstract, but another thing entirely to tell the almost 800 women in Yellowstone County they didn’t deserve those breast cancer screenings.

And that’s just what Matt Rosendale and Greg Gianforte believe. When they rail against the Affordable Care Act, they’re railing against your neighbor getting the screening that could save her life and against the in-patient services for substance abuse that could prevent a lifetime of addiction, with all its attendant costs, for the kid who made a bad decision and would face insurmountable odds without just a little help.

Congressman Gianforte and State Auditor Rosendale are simply more interested in appeasing the corporate interests who fight tooth and nail against the idea that we should help our neighbors, save our rural hospitals, and save the lives of Montanans.

They still hold to this view, even though the non-partisan Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana found that Medicaid expansion created 5,000 jobs and added $280 million in personal income in Montana. They still oppose Medicaid expansion, even though the BBER found that Medicaid expansion actually increased labor force participation among low-income Montanans.

In short, Medicaid expansion has represented a Montana Miracle: increased wages and employment, a boon to the economy, and lives saved through early intervention and preventative care.

And still, Greg Gianforte and Matt Rosendale are fixated on putting their ideological opposition to government health care ahead of the health of Montana’s people and economy.

You might be tempted to believe that Gianforte and Rosendale have some sort of alternative in mind, but that would be an awfully charitable reading of their records as officeholders and candidates. Rosendale, in his own words, has called for cuts in Medicaid and Medicare, and voted against Medicaid expansion in 2015.

When not equivocating about where he stands on healthcare, Gianforte has long been an opponent of the ACA that created the expansion of Medicaid.

We’re in crunch time here in Montana’s election season, with voters already heading to the polls. If you believe in a future Montana that protects access to rural care, cancer screening for your neighbors, and a brighter economic outlook for all of us, the choice is clear: we need to re-elect Jon Tester to the Senate and send Kathleen Williams to the House, to fight for all of us against those who would undermine our health and our hospitals.

Maybe the richest member of Congress and a millionaire real estate developer from Maryland don’t understand why we should help our neighbors and protect our rural communities, but I’m pretty damn sure Montanans do.

Let’s remind them—and protect almost 100,000 of our neighbors—with our votes over the next month.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we\'d certainly appreciate it.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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