Former Region 8 Health and Human Services Director Kim Gillan Speaks in Billings.

BILLINGS, MONTANA – Today, local and national health care advocates met at RiverStone Health in Billings to host a roundtable discussion highlighting the importance of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to Montanans.

The event was part of Protect Our Care’s national “Care Force One Tour”. The group is traveling 11,505 miles across the country, with 48 events in 23 states, to give community members, elected officials, and health care experts the opportunity to share personal stories about the ACA and how it has benefitted Montanans.

Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs for RiverStone Health, Barbara Schneeman, opened by emphasizing the importance of the ACA to Montana.“Prior to the ACA MT had one of the highest rates of uninsured persons in the country, it’s now 7.5%. The ACA has not only opened health care to more people but provided primary physician training and support to those health care professionals serving our state. The ACA allows Montanans to get the care they need, when they need it.”

Schneeman was joined by RiverStone Health physician, Dr. Mike Geurin who said, “Because patients have an ongoing source of care, we are able to educate them about when to call us and when a trip to the ER is the best option. Providing preventative services and reducing wait times for emergency care benefits all of us, because illness doesn’t recognize personal wealth, insurance status, or political party.”

The ACA also covers preventative services for Montanans – like flu shots, cancer screenings, contraception, and mammograms – which encourages patients to seek preventative care, making them healthier in the long-run and saves significant costs down the road.

Kim Gillan, former Region 8 Health and Human Services Director and Protect Our Care Montana committee member, discussed the impacts current efforts to dismantle the ACA would have on Montanans across the state. “Among the 429,500 Montanans with pre-existing conditions, there are 54,000 Montana children that already have a pre-existing condition. Without protections for them, what will their future hold? What if no work-provided insurance will cover them? How can they be productive members of society constantly living in fear that they will not have access to health care?”

Protect Our Care member and advocate, Laura Packard, shared a personal story of being diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer and receiving health care coverage through the ACA. “If I still had junk insurance, I would now be bankrupt or dead. Without the ACA, no insurance company would choose to give me a policy. We need to fight the sabotage and ensure future generations have access to comprehensive health care they deserve.”

Rep. Kathy Kelker, HD 47, shared facts about Montana’s Medicaid expansion, which as supported by the ACA, provides access health care to all Montanans, including those in Yellowstone County. “96,656 adults, including 13,941 here in Yellowstone County were able to gain access to health care, including cancer screenings, vaccinations, wellness visits, and dental exams.”

Sen. Mary McNally, SD24, added, “Critical access hospitals in the states who have expanded Medicaid are six hundred less likely to close than in states who haven’t expanded Medicaid. Since 2010, 83 rural hospitals across the country have closed, with 90% of those closures happening in states that refused to expand Medicaid. We’re so lucky that isn’t the case in anywhere in Montana.”

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human services recently released a Medicaid dashboard tool, a new interactive online dashboard offering information about the health benefits and local impact of Montana’s Medicaid expansion.

Before the ACA, many Montanans had never carried health insurance and had difficulty accessing care. Unfortunately, no navigator assistance funding was received in Montana this year. Stacey Anderson, of Montana Primary Care Association, discussed efforts to assist Montanans in accessing health care for the first time. “Since 2013, navigator grants were given to non-profits to hire people to help uninsured people enroll in coverage through the exchange or through Montana’s Medicaid. This is a big loss to Montana as the navigator grants helped folks “navigate” the complexity of signing up for health insurance. The good news is that Montana’s Community Health Centers are picking up the slack.”

Open enrollment for the ACA marketplaces in Montana begins on November 1, 2018. People can visit www.covermt.org, put in their zip code, and connect with community members who are certified to assist in accessing and navigating the health insurance marketplace.

Protect our Care Montana is an organization of Montana leaders focused on educating the public about the impacts and importance of the Affordable Care Act. “Care Force One” will also travel to Butte and Missoula on Friday, October 12. Find out more at https://protectourcarebustour.com/.

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  • It’s expected that 40 year old Montanans will face paying an extra $1,330 for marketplace coverage in 2019 if efforts to undermine the marketplace continue.
  • Montana expanded Medicaid under the ACA and the 96,000 Montanans who have gained coverage because of this program would find their care at risk if the law were repealed.
  • Junk insurance plans that charge money for skimpy coverage could return to Montana and 26,000 Montananscould lack comprehensive coverage in 2019 because they will either become uninsured or will be enrolled in junk plans that don’t provide key health benefits.
  • 49,000 Montanans who have obtained health insurance through the ACA marketplace could lose their coverage if the current lawsuit continues; and protections for 426,000 Montanans living with a pre-existing condition would be in jeopardy.