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With the Montana Legislature’s biennial session already well underway, one debate has risen above the rest as the most important issue facing our state: Medicaid expansion. Montana’s expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act has added tens of thousands of our friends and neighbors to insurance rolls, and given a significant boost to the state’s economy.

Unfortunately the current policy, which was put in place in 2015, is set to expire soon if our representatives in Helena don’t vote to continue it. For all the talk nationally about ways to reform the health care system in the United States, one of the most impactful things we can do immediately is to protect this important program that has already helped so many.

Health care in this country needs changes, and there are many opinions on both sides of the aisle regarding what those changes should look like. But the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion are working. We have the proof, and we see it every day; uninsured rates are significantly down and more people are able to receive care and live healthy lives. To not continue this policy that has given so many more Montanans access would be a mistake with real consequences for families across our state.

In Montana and nationally, it’s critical that we protect these reforms which are working, like the ACA and Medicaid expansion, rather than throwing the baby out with the bathwater to start from scratch. There are changes that can and should be made to bring down costs and expand access to coverage, but that shouldn’t come at the expense of the progress that has already been made.

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By building on what we have today, we can maintain the coverage that so many people already enjoy, while continuing to provide patients with more options and eliminate barriers to receiving care that currently exist.

Patrick Cobb, M.D.

Billings

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