Governor Steve Bullock today wrote a letter to U.S. House of Representatives Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy providing input as the U.S. House of Representatives considers the future of healthcare in Montana and throughout the United States.
“Montanans are proud of the innovative and bipartisan work we’ve done to expand healthcare coverage to low-income working Montanans,”Governor Bullock wrote. “Congress should not rip healthcare away from tens of thousands of Montanans and millions of Americans without first presenting a real and viable alternative that protects patients and provides a foundation for states, healthcare providers, and insurers to responsibly plan for the future.”
In 2015, Governor Bullock worked with Republicans and Democrats to pass the bipartisan Health and Economic Livelihood Partnership (HELP) Act. The HELP Act is an innovative approach to Medicaid expansion that demands personal responsibility of participants via premiums and copays, uses a private business to administer the provider network and claims processing, and provides beneficiaries access to workforce development and training. In a short amount of time, Montana has made significant progress:
· The uninsured rate in Montana has dropped from a staggering 20% in 2013 to just over 7% in 2016;
· Our federal tax dollars are coming home to provide affordable healthcare to over 60,000 hardworking Montanans;
· Rural hospitals that had been struggling under the weight of uncompensated care for the uninsured have been thrown a lifeline;
· Newly covered individuals have accessed thousands of life-saving and cost-reducing preventative care services, including over 4,000 cancer screenings and 3,000 cholesterol screenings; and
· Thousands of veterans and American Indians finally have access to comprehensive coverage from a diverse network of providers.
Bullock expressed hope that “D.C. can begin to look a little more like Montana, with Democrats and Republicans working together to find thoughtful and innovative healthcare solutions that increase access while improving efficiencies.”
Montana’s approach to Medicaid expansion would not be the only thing at stake if Congress hastily repeals the Affordable Care Act without an accompanying viable replacement.
· An estimated 152,000 Montanans under the age of 65 have a pre-existing condition that could result in denial of health coverage;
· Supportive care that helps thousands of elderly and disabled citizens remain in their homes and avoid nursing home care through the Community First Choice program would be reduced or eliminated;
· Long-overdue improvements to health coverage and services for American Indians, a population that dies, on average, 20 years earlier than their white neighbors in Montana, would be shelved;
· Millions of dollars in funding for common-sense prevention and public health programs, including diabetes prevention, cardiovascular health, and poison control programs in communities all across Montana would be lost; and
· Promising and innovating reforms that can improve primary care and reduce inefficiencies, including Comprehensive Primary Care + currently being adopted by all major payers in Montana in coordination with over 50 doctors’ offices and hospitals, would be disrupted.
Bullock also noted “opponents of the Affordable Care Act have had six years to design fixes, replacements, and alternatives. Repealing the Affordable Care Act without an immediate and transparent plan for the future would be grossly irresponsible, throwing our entire healthcare system into chaos and leaving millions of Americans uncertain about their healthcare future.”
Bullock’s full letter can be viewed here [LINK].