The Montana Healthcare Foundation recently provided an update on Medicaid in Montana, so KGVO contacted the organization’s CEO Dr. Aaron Wernham for the status of the program in the state.

“Medicaid currently covers about 265,000 Montanans, so about a quarter of the state's population that includes lower income children and adults, people with disabilities, and people with serious or disabling mental illness,” said Dr. Wernham. That includes people, in both rural and urban areas, so about 65% of the people covered are in rural Montana.”

Wernham said with the onset of the COVID 19 pandemic, more people turned to Medicaid for their healthcare.

“One of the things that we found is that the program really has helped people cope with job loss and continue to get health care,” he said. “We had been seeing enrollment in the Medicaid expansion which covers adults dropping over the last couple of years. However, this year as people lost jobs or lost income, they were able to get coverage through Medicaid and we saw the enrollment increase again by about 12,000 people.”

Wernham said during the pandemic, telehealth services emerged as the go-to platform for Medicaid services.

“When medical practices, mental health practices, and substance use treatment providers were having to shut their doors early in the pandemic during the stay at home order, Medicaid actually helped providers adapt to providing telehealth services, so we saw an almost 1,500% increase in services delivered by telehealth,” he said. “So if you look at the net of savings and added revenues, the estimate from the economist that we work with, Bryce Ward, is that Medicaid pays for about between 110% and 150% of today's costs.”

Montana Medicaid covers 265,000 children and adults with low incomes, two-thirds of whom live in rural Montana.

 

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