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Analysis: Obamacare repeal would cost MT $4.8 billion in Medicai - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Analysis: Obamacare repeal would cost MT $4.8 billion in Medicaid funds over 6 years

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Montana Healthcare Foundation CEO Aaron Wernham Montana Healthcare Foundation CEO Aaron Wernham
BOZEMAN -

Montana would lose $4.8 billion in federal Medicaid funds over six years, if the Republican House-approved bill to repeal “Obamacare” becomes law, according to a study commissioned by a Montana-based foundation.

The study financed by the Montana Healthcare Foundation in Bozeman said from 2020-2026, the GOP bill would cut more than a third of Montana’s current federal funds for Medicaid, the state-federal program that pays medical bills for the poor and disabled.

“(The bill) would require the state to make major changes in both who’s eligible for (Medicaid) benefits, the type of benefits that are offered and the amount that we reimburse providers for giving them,” said Aaron Wernham, CEO of the Montana Healthcare Foundation. “It’s really hard to see how this would benefit Montanans.”

Opponents of the GOP bill, including Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock, seized on the report, saying it shows that plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” would harm access to health care in Montana.

“It’s time for folks in Washington, D.C., to work across the aisle to increase affordability and quality of health care across America – instead of gutting Medicaid, a program that works,” he said in a statement.

The House bill is currently before the U.S. Senate, where majority Republicans are working on their own version of repealing the Affordable Care Act.

Details of the Senate version haven’t been made public yet.

But U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., told MTN News last week that it likely would move to a per-person funding formula for children, the disabled and the elderly covered by Medicaid and a gradual reduction in the federal support for 79,000 low-income Montanans covered under a 2016 Medicaid expansion.

Both of those elements are similar to the House bill, which was analyzed by health-care consultant Manatt Health for the Healthcare Foundation.

Manatt’s report said the per-person funding, which is capped in the House bill starting in 2020, would cost Montana nearly $600 million in federal funds over the following six years.

Under the current Medicaid program, the state gets a set amount for every person who is eligible. There is no cap.

The report said the state would lose another $4 billion from 2020-2026 when the bill cuts back funding to support Medicaid expansion, which covers able-bodied adults.

Thousands of Montanans would lose coverage, as the state would be unable to make up the difference and scale back its support, the report said.

Wernham said the nonpartisan foundation is not making any recommendations on what Congress should do, but wants Montanans “to go into this with their eyes open, and understand what the impacts would be on health.”

The $135 million foundation, created by the sale of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana several years ago, advocates for health-care improvements in the state.

Wernham said the 2016 expansion of Medicaid has improved health for thousands of low-income Montanans who gained coverage.

“We know that the majority of people who got coverage under the recent Medicaid expansion, for example, went in during their first year and got preventative services,” he said. “That’s exactly the type of change that we need if we’re going to get on top of some of the major health challenges we have in this state.”

About Mike Dennison

MTN Chief Political Reporter Mike Dennison joined MTN News in August 2015 after a 23-year career as a newspaper reporter covering Montana politics and state government. While some may believe that politics are boring, Mike firmly believes that's not the case if you tell the story with pizzazz and let people know why the story is important.
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