Report highlights county-by-county Medicaid benefits

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The nonprofit Montana Budget and Policy Center released a report last week detailing a county-by-county breakdown of the benefits of Montana’s Medicaid expansion program, which is slated to sunset in mere months.

The report, titled Medicaid Expansion Works for Every County in Montana, was released as the 2019 Legislature continues to consider options for how to continue Medicaid expansion — a program that serves nearly 100,000 Montanans.

The report highlighted county-specific data across four main categories: Medicaid enrollee totals, preventive screenings, behavioral health services and businesses with employees enrolled.

According to the report, in Flathead County, nearly 9,000 residents, or about 10 percent of the population, is currently enrolled. More than 1,600 businesses, or about 61 percent of businesses in the county, have at least one employee enrolled in Medicaid expansion. More than 9,500 preventive services have been provided in Flathead County and nearly 3,000 enrollees have accessed mental health outpatient services in the valley. For those two categories, Flathead County ranks third overall in the state behind Missoula and Yellowstone counties.

Enrollment is higher in nieghboring counties, with Lincoln county showing a 12.1 percent enrollment of the total population and Lake County sitting at 13 percent. However, those who have accessed mental health outpatient services are much less with Lake County showing 1,211 enrollees and Lincoln showing 738.

As a whole, 44,000 Montanans statewide accessed counselors, doctors, support groups, or medication to treat and manage health issues or addiction. More than 92,000 have accessed over 300,000 preventive services.

The report says lawmakers should continue with the state’s current program, the Health and Economic Livelihood Partnership, which was passed in 2015.

Democratic lawmakers have pushed to keep the current plan in place, with Rep. Mary Caferro, D-Helena, introducing a bill that reflects just that. Gov. Steve Bullock has been outspoken about supporting the current program as well.

On the other hand, the majority of Republican lawmakers are looking to implement community engagement requirements that would require able-bodied adults, with some exceptions, to log a certain amount of work hours per week. The bill was introduced by Rep. Ed Buttrey, R-Great Falls.

There are some Republican lawmakers who do not favor either of the bills.

State lawmakers heard public testimony last week on both proposals.

Reporter Kianna Gardner can be reached at 758-4439 or kgardner@dailyinterlake.com

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