The newest version of the Republican healthcare bill has been panned by two of the state's top medical administrators for its continued cuts to Medicaid.

Both Aaron Wernham, CEO of the Montana Healthcare Foundation and Dean French, CEO of Missoula's Community Medical Center cited the reductions in Medicaid as their chief opposition to the new bill released on Thursday.

"From what we can tell, we've been focusing on the cuts to the Medicaid program, which is only one important part of the bill," Wernham said. "From what we can tell, the Medicaid changes are very similar to the Senate's last version which we analyzed a few weeks back.We are still seeing very significant cuts to the Medicaid program."

CEO of Missoula's Community Medical Center, Dr Dean French, echoed Wernham's concerns.

"Montana has a very high number of people receiving Medicaid benefits," French said. "In the proposed legislation the Medicaid expansion that we've seen great benefits for our patients from, would be essentially rolled back and handed back to the states. It sets up a scenario where the state would eventually have to defund the expansion program. That would affect the lives of the patients we care for, particularly pregnant moms, sick babies, those are the folks that we care for under the Medicaid program at Community Medical Center"

Another aspect of reduced Medicaid funding would be elderly people in nursing homes, whose care is funded almost completely through Medicaid.

"For those patients that have no assets, they have no ability to pay for nursing home care, they then qualify for Medicaid," French continued. "We have limited Medicaid beds in nursing homes in the state, and any decrease in funding would affect senior citizens in that situation."

When asked about the burden of Medicaid coverage on the increasing national debt, Wernham said that aspect of the issue is out of his purview.

"At the Healthcare Foundation, honestly, we're really only looking at the health side of the picture," Wernham said. "I'm not an economist. I'm not an expert in the budget or the deficit, we're just looking at the effect on healthcare this bill would have."

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