BUTTE, MONTANA – Today, local and national health care advocates met at Southwest Montana Community Health Center in Butte 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.

CEO for Southwest Montana Community Health Center, Jennifer Malone, opened by emphasizing the importance of the ACA to Montana. “Our mission here is inspire hope and empower wellness by providing access to comprehensive healthcare. That’s what the ACA is all about, access. In our county, there are 4,000 people receiving care now when they weren’t before.”

Support of the ACA has provided the opportunity for Southwest Montana Community Health Center to create and provide behavioral health care to the community. Molly Malloy, the director of Behavior Health spoke to the benefits the expanded healthcare law has provided, “I’ve witnessed first-hand the benefits of the ACA to our community. We’ve been able to provide care to people, some for the first time. People are accessing care now in a way they haven’t been able to before. We are identifying opportunities to prevent healthcare crises earlier.”

Susanne Whelchel, a Protect Our Care Montana steering committee member with a pre-existing condition brought a personal context to the threats Montanans are facing. “If current national efforts prevail, 425,900 Montanans with pre-existing conditions would be at risk for losing the coverage they have now. As a Montanan with a pre-existing condition, the ACA is protecting me by ensuring I will have insurance and access to health care. Every American deserves access to health care.”

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.

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. “The Affordable Care Act saved my life. I had junk insurance before the ACA, if I still had that insurance, I would be bankrupt or dead. We need insurance for our care, we need insurance to stay alive.”

Rep. Ryan Lynch, HD 76, shared facts about Montana’s Medicaid expansion, which as supported by the ACA, provides access health care to all Montanans, including those in Silver Bow County. “Of the 96,000 Montanans who are benefiting from Medicaid Expansion, just over 4,000 are right here in our county. But, importantly, it’s to remember that each one of those numbers is a person with a story, and someone we’ve been able to get into care including cancer screenings, vaccinations, wellness visits, and dental exams.”

Pat Noonan, formerly representative of HD 73, spoke to the importance of the ACA to Montana’s Medicaid expansion “Healthcare is one of our largest industries in Montana and the largest sector for private income in the state. Medicaid Expansion has created 500 new jobs, $280M in personal income, $47M in new tax revenue, and saved nearly $36M with federal support. Since 2010, 83 rural hospitals 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.

Eric Nyland, a representative of Senator Jon Tester, read a statement from the Senator which thanked gathered members for their work and praised the work of community health centers across Montana who “provide affordable, quality care to over 100,000 Montanans.”

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. In coming months, the Montana Primary Care Association will assist uninsured people in enrolling in coverage through the exchange or through Montana’s Medicaid. Montana faced a big loss without navigator funding as the grants helped folks “navigate” the complexity of signing up for health insurance. Montana’s Community Health Centers are going to be around to help pick up the slack.”

“There is no doubt in my mind that Montana’s Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act have saved lives,” said Holly McCamant, outreach and enrollment director for Southwest Montana Community Health.

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 Montanans could 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.