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I am altogether disappointed in Montana’s Legislature for voting against Medicaid expansion last year. Currently Montana limits Medicaid access to individuals significantly below the federal poverty level, which leaves many Montanans who live in or near poverty without access to health care.

Expansion would give 70,000 previously uninsured Montana residents newfound access to care. They could take advantage of cost-effective preventive measures instead of waiting for manageable health issues to develop into crises requiring high-priced interventions the uninsured generally cannot pay for, which means the cost gets passed on to the rest of us. Expansion would also mean that low- and middle-income residents living with pre-existing and chronic conditions would not have to choose between medications and treatment or rent and groceries.

Medicaid expansion will be fully funded by the federal government for the next few years. Eventually states will be required to cover 10 percent of the cost of expanded coverage, a small investment to make to close the coverage gap for many of our neighbors and drive down health care expenses for everyone.

The federal funds earmarked for expanded Medicaid coverage would not only provide health care coverage for those in need, it would also support the economy and create new jobs across communities in Montana.

It is not too late to do something about this. The Montana Medicaid Expansion Initiative, or Healthy Montana Initiative, may appear on the Nov. 4 ballot if supporters can collect valid signatures equal to 10 percent of the total number of votes cast in the last gubernatorial general election.

Health care access for tens of thousands of our neighbors, monumental health care cost savings through prevention, and an influx of funds to stimulate our economy and encourage job growth; we have so much to benefit from with the passing of this initiative.

Bodee Alt, Missoula

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