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Bozeman locals gather for Affordable Care Act anniversary, discuss Medicaid expansion

By Katherine Mozzone, KTVM Reporter, kmozzone@ktvm.com
Published On: Mar 23 2013 08:25:39 PM MDT
Updated On: Mar 24 2013 03:05:02 PM MDT
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

Folks with the Gallatin City-County Health Department say there's a significant health problem in the county- one in five working-age adults don't have health insurance.

They say there's a need to find a better way to serve more people for less money. That's why folks with the health department say it's important to come together as Montanans to start a conversation and come up with a solution.

James Nausadis doesn't have health insurance but says he's most concerned about the folks he knows who need it more than he does.

"My best friend who has the two-year-old daughter, a wife that's due in May and she's still working as a waitress at Olive Garden because they can't afford not to," says Nausadis.

He says the Affordable Care Act Three Year Anniversary event gives him hope that something can be done for his best friend.

"People are thinking about it and if we work hard enough, it just might happen," says Nausadis.

Gallatin City-County Health Officer Matt Kelley was one of the presenters.

"The fact that we have so many people in Montana and in Gallatin County who are uninsured means that the costs are being passed onto us through hospitals, through insurance companies. The health insurance premiums we pay and the medical costs we all pay. We're paying for that every day," says Kelley.

He says one solution may be to bring those people into the system by expanding Medicaid. Kelley says the expansion would make 70,000 more Montanans eligible for Medicaid and 4,500 more eligible in Gallatin County alone.

"When you make them a part of the system and you empower them, they're more likely to get preventative care...You make it less likely that they're going to get really sick later on and have to be admitted to the hospital later on or have costly tests that they can't pay for. When that happens, we all pay for that," says Kelley.

Some folks who oppose the bill say Medicaid expansion could cost Montana as much as $300 million a year.

I talked to Senator Art Wittich who tells me there are better ways to get better healthcare without expanding a broken system. Instead of putting people on Medicaid, Wittich says a more favorable approach would be to expand programs that encourage folks to work, like Insure Montana. It's a two-part program designed to help make health insurance more affordable for small businesses.

Matt Kelley is set to testify in a committee hearing on HB 509, Monday.

Senator Wittich says he's for a different bill. HB 604 would create a committee to study Montana's Medicaid program, including ways to make it more efficient and cost-effective, as well as the potential impacts of expansion.