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Please consider this letter a 911 medical alert!

In Helena, a symbolic battle over the Affordable Health Care Act’s Medicaid expansion program is raging. Political battle lines have been drawn, opposing positions are being defended, and negotiations are ongoing. As responsible Montana citizens, I encourage each of you to be involved in this democratic process. The compromises and outcome attained in this ongoing battle will impact the health and well being of our families, neighbors, people with disabilities, communities, hospitals, treatment programs, and state and federal economies.

I encourage you to read HB658. Before you start reading and analyzing, take pencil and paper and write these four words. Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats. Understand that Medicaid policies are complex. Realistically ask who, what, where, when and how questions. Compare your income and premium costs to expansion premium costs. Look at the federal deficit and the cost of federal health care subsidies. Based on your own analysis, contact your elected officials.

My opinion? I believe that we should find more efficient and equitable ways to provide services for people disabilities. Thousands of Montanans with disabilities are on waiting lists. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of healthy Medicaid expansion participants have full coverage. Their premium for full coverage is 2% of their income. Health insurance companies will merely pass their new fees on to their existing customers. Rural hospitals will continue to struggle financially. I believe there is room for amendments to HB658 and that this bill is only a triage until the Affordable Health Care Act is improved or replaced.

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John Harwood

Joliet

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