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Montanans are counting on us to work together this week to pass the Healthy Montana Plan, a uniquely Montana solution to allow 70,000 hardworking Montanans to purchase affordable Medicaid insurance. The plan will allow our friends, family members, and neighbors currently without health insurance to purchase affordable coverage. Healthy Montana helps Montana’s working families make ends meet by helping them get the affordable health care coverage they need.

Montana is proud to have the highest percentage of veterans in the nation, however, many of them do not currently have adequate health care coverage. Healthy Montana will provide an affordable option for 9,000 Montana veterans and their family members. We must do the right thing and provide affordable health insurance for them.

Healthy Montana will also improve the state’s capacity to care for people with mental health issues. Providing people who have mental health diagnoses with health coverage will help them get the critical care they need.

In addition to providing affordable coverage to Montana families, implementing Healthy Montana will also provide a cost savings to the taxpayers of Montana. We have already paid taxes for this. However, those funds are currently going to other states. Why wouldn’t we want to benefit from our own taxes? Passing Healthy Montana will save money for the taxpayers of Montana; it is just common sense.

7,215 uninsured in county

When uninsured people don’t receive preventive care they frequently end up in emergency care — with no way to pay for it. Adverse outcomes combined with unpaid costs raise health care costs for everyone. Healthy Montana allows people to pay for preventive care and avoid passing on emergency care costs to everyone else.

Healthy Montana supports Montana’s strong families and strong communities.

“In our communities there is no substitute for the helping hand or the kind heart. That’s what Healthy Montana is all about, simply loving your neighbor’s family as your own.” said Rep. Pat Noonan, sponsor of the Healthy Montana legislation.

In Yellowstone County there are 7,215 uninsured adults eligible for Medicaid expansion. It is anticipated that expanding Medicaid will create 1,370 more jobs per year as the demand for health care increases. If Montana fails to expand Medicaid, these Yellowstone County residents — mainly parents and other adults working for low wages without health insurance — will make too much to qualify for Medicaid in its current form, but will make too little to be eligible for tax credits to purchase private insurance. They will be left with no viable options.

GOP plan falls short

Republicans have presented an alternative plan, which will cost Montanans more in taxes and provide less coverage to far fewer people. It does not begin to address the problem at hand: How to provide affordable health care for Montana citizens.

The people of Montana have spoken, and they strongly support Medicaid expansion. It is our responsibility as legislators to ensure that all Montanans have access to quality health care. The Healthy Montana Plan will improve the livelihood of thousands of Montanans. The answer is simple. It is fiscally and morally the right thing to do. We hope you will join us in supporting Medicaid expansion so that our neighbors, friends, and family members can access the health care they need.

Sen. Mary McNally, D-Billings, collaborated on this opinion with Rep. Jessica Karjala and Rep. Kathy Kelker, both Billings Democrats.

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Opinion Editor

Opinion editor for The Billings Gazette.