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Press release
March 18, 2015

Montana Report: Working Individuals in Key Economic Sectors Make Up the Largest Group to Benefit from Medicaid Expansion

Expanding Medicaid Would Provide Access to Quality, Affordable Health Care for 63,000 Uninsured Montanans

In Addition to Health Coverage Gains, Job Creation and Economic Growth Are Important Benefits of Medicaid Dollars to State

Washington, D.C.—More than two-thirds of the 63,000 uninsured Montanans who would benefit from the state’s acceptance of federal funds to expand Medicaid—more than 45,000 residents—are working Montanans employed in occupations that most people rely on daily and are critical to the state’s economy, says a report released today by Families USA.

These working Montanans are employed in industries ranging from food service and cleaning and maintenance to the medical and retail sectors, and are employed as home health aides, child care workers, cashiers, clerks and janitors. Although these Montanans work in widely diverse jobs, the report says, they have one thing in common—they don’t make enough money to afford health coverage.

Another 13 percent of those Montanans who would be eligible for access to quality, affordable health care under a Medicaid expansion are adults termed “not in the workforce;” these include students, non-working spouses, people with disabilities, and people who have left the workforce. Together with the working Montanans, they make up about 84 percent of those Montanans who would gain access to health coverage.

Through an expansion of Medicaid, Montana could provide health coverage to residents with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $27,720 for a family of three in 2015. Currently, Montana’s Medicaid program sets an annual income eligibility ceiling of $10,250 for a family of three. Under Montana’s program, there is not a single dollar of assistance for health care to families without dependent children, regardless of how low their income may be.   

The working majority, more than 45,000 uninsured Montanans are employed as follows:

  • 8,800 people employed as food service workers in such jobs as fast food workers, cooks and waitresses.
  • 3,700 in sales, working as cashiers, retail salespeople, and travel agents.
  • 4,400 in office and administrative support jobs like hotel desk clerk, office clerk, or messenger.
  • 4,200 in construction jobs—carpenters, painters, laborers, and more.
  • 4,500 in cleaning and maintenance, including housekeepers, janitors and landscapers.
  • 2,000 in production, including butchers, laundry workers and tailors.
  • 3,200 in transportation jobs like bus drivers, taxi drivers and parking attendants.
  • 3,400 in personal care, which includes barbers, child care workers and personal care aides.
  • An additional 9,500 Montanans work in a variety of other jobs.

As the Families USA report explains, expanding Medicaid changes the rules in favor of the state. The federal government currently pays roughly 65 cents of every dollar spent on health care delivered through Medicaid, and the state pays the balance. By agreeing to Medicaid expansion, Montana could see more than 63,000 residents gain health coverage, with the federal government paying all costs of that expansion through 2016. After that, the federal share gradually falls to 90 cents on the dollar in 2020 and remains at that level thereafter.

The report notes that if Montana had expanded Medicaid in January 2014 when the option was first available, federal funds flowing into the state would have supported an average of 400 new jobs and an increase of $60 million in gross state output in 2016. 

“Montana should not delay this Medicaid expansion any longer,” said Ron Pollack, Executive Director of Families USA. “The need to provide access to quality health coverage for tens of thousands of Montanans demands it. The state’s need for a good economic boost and new jobs demands it. And, of course, the fact that circumstances can make you virtually penniless and Montana will still deny you help to get basic health care really demands that the state expand the Medicaid program.

“The federal dollars to accomplish all this are on the table, waiting to be claimed,” Pollack said. It’s time for the legislature to meet its obligation to the people of Montana and expand Medicaid immediately.”

View the report: “Medicaid Expansion in Montana: Health Insurance for Working Individuals and Families"