Posted: Jan 13, 2013 10:22 AM by Lindsey Gordon - MTN News
About 20-percent of Montanans are uninsured, but when the Affordable Care Act comes into effect in 2014 that number should become smaller.
The Office of the Montana Commissioner of Securities and Insurance took a look at health insurance in Montana and the impacts of a potential Medicaid expansion.
Studies completed by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana find that most of the 20-percent of Montanans that are uninsured are so because of low wage jobs, premiums that were too expensive, or forced unemployment.
"Most the people that are uninsured in Montana are uninsured because they can't afford it," said Montana State Auditor Monica Lindeen (pictured).
The study also found that more than 40-percent of those who reported fair or poor health are uninsured.
A big worry is that with the Affordable Care Act's Federally Facilitated Exchange, small business employers may drop coverage for employees.
"Twenty-four thousand to 41,000 employees could conceivably lose employer-sponsored insurance," said Gregg Davis, with the Bureau of Business and Economic Research.
The positive is that there should be greater demand for health insurance, since individuals would face penalties for non-compliance, come 2014. Then there would be incentive for employers to offer health insurance in order to attract and keep workers.
The Bureau of Business and Economic Research also looked at how the potential Medicaid expansion will affect Montana.
It would increase maximum income threshold to 138-percent of the federal poverty level, so Medicaid eligibility becomes $31,809 for a family of four. According to the study, that would make about 69,000 uninsured Montanans eligible, but Davis is confident not everyone eligible will enroll.
"It appears that there could be a huge, positive impact. In terms of what, between 5 and 6 billion dollars in revenue to the state and something like 14,000 jobs created and not just any kind of jobs. They're very good paying jobs, 60 percent of those would be in the medical field," said Lindeen.
The same studies says that the expansion would cost Montana about $52 million from 2014 and 2021.
Davis said that the revenue coming to Montana would be in part from tax dollars from the pockets of Montanans.
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