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Medicaid Expansion Has Saved Montana Money and Improved Lives for Our Citizens. Of Course, Republicans Oppose It.

In news that should come as no shock to anyone with a high school education or better, it turns out that Medicaid expansion has been an economic boon for the state of Montana, saving the state money and encouraging more people to find work in Montana. A report from Montana Healthcare Foundation and Headwaters Foundation, highlighted in the Independent Record, shows that Medicaid expansion is bringing new spending into the state and cost savings of millions of dollars:

Medicaid expansion will bring about $350 million to $400 million in new spending to the state’s economy and add 5,000 jobs in health care and other industries that pay $270 million by 2020, according to the report.

In its first year, 2016, the state saved spent $5.3 million on benefits and claims and to administer Medicaid expansion. That same year, savings were $18 million. The third part of the picture, which advocates are calling attention to, is increased revenues to the state in the form of more taxes paid on income from more jobs, higher spending on health care and industry grown, for example. That revenue was $22.2 million in 2016.

The news gets even better when you learn that Medicaid expansion has actually increased participation in the workforce among low-income Montanans. It turns out that investing in programs to connect low-income individuals to jobs and helping them be healthy enough to work helps engage them in jobs and more productive, fulfilling lives.

Of course, those who advocated for Medicaid expansion in the face of irrational opposition from conservative Republicans knew this would be the outcome. While some in the Montana GOP ranted about socialism, sensible policymakers in both parties understood that a healthy person is a more productive person and that improving the health of individuals would improve the economic health of the state.

Forbes reported last month that Medicaid expansion has pumped hundreds of millions of new dollars back into the Montana economy:

A study out this month from the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research shows the expansion of Medicaid generates a half-billion dollars a year in healthcare spending. Of that, 70%, or $350 million to $400 million, is “new money circulating in Montana’s economy.”

Research nationwide backs these arguments. A literature review conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that Medicaid expansion has increased insurance coverage rates and increased access to care, both without incurring significant increases in state spending.

This week, Louisiana released a report showing that “Medicaid expansion is saving $317 million that we are able to invest in other priorities, but most importantly, it is saving lives.”

And that’s the most important point. States who invested in Medicaid expansion are growing their economies not by implementing a race to the bottom and slashing social services, but by investing in a simple idea: that making health care affordable is a cornerstone of economic security for individuals and economic health for governments.

In another report by Holly Michels today, we learn that all four of the Republicans running for the US Senate are opposed to Medicaid expansion. It might be productive to ask them how they plan to replace the economic activity Medicaid expansion has generated, not to mention the savings to the state and its people.

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 would certainly appreciate it.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a 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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