MBPC’s Statement on Legislature’s Failure to Expand Health Care

April 24, 2013 | Montana Budget and Policy Center

The 63rd Legislature will adjourn today, having failed to take action on the single most important piece of
public policy before them – the acceptance of federal funds to expand health care to up to 70,000
uninsured Montanans.

Tara Veazey, Executive Director of the Montana Budget and Policy Center, stated, “This session, seventy
thousand uninsured Montanans were denied health coverage that would have saved lives, lowered health
care costs for all of us, and protected rural hospitals struggling with uncompensated care. A billion
dollars in federal funds that Montanans helped pay for- and over 12,000 jobs it would have created- were
denied. Thousands of Montanans, rural hospitals, doctors, nurses, business leaders, chambers of
commerce, health care experts, and economists were all ignored by legislative leadership. It is a sad day
for good public policy, and it is a sad day for representative democracy in Montana.”

Throughout the session, legislators heard from hospitals-large and small, urban and rural-all struggling
under the weight of uncompensated care provided to the uninsured. They heard from prominent
business leaders, the Montana Chamber of Commerce, and local chambers from Billings to Kalispell, all
urging legislators to take advantage of the $1 billion in federal funds and over 12,000 jobs created in the
next two years alone. They heard from health care experts and advocates that failing to accept the
federal funds and expand health care would continue to drive the uninsured to the emergency room and
increase health care costs for all of us. They heard from economists, budget experts, and local
government officials that both the state and local governments would experience large savings in health
care expenses if coverage was expanded. They heard from doctors and nurses who treat patients forced
to forgo preventative care and needed treatment because they simply can’t afford it. They heard from
low-wage working Montanans who aren’t offered and can’t afford health insurance, who have fallen sick
or been injured, and who can no longer be as productive as they would like because they can’t access the
treatment they desperately need. They heard from Montanans all across this state who explained that
families, businesses, and providers would be paying for Medicaid expansion whether the state took
advantage of the funds available to them or not.

Thousands of Montanans called and emailed their legislators and urged them to put politics aside and do
the right thing for Montana’s economy, working families, and our health care system. They were all
ignored.

Democratic leaders, moderate Republicans, and the Governor worked tirelessly to find meaningful
compromise, and they succeeded. But through procedural gamesmanship, House Leadership kept this
critically important issue from a full debate and vote on the House floor. 

Montanans deserved better. According to Veazey, “Though the session has come to an end, MBPC, allies,
and thousands of Montanans remain committed to doing the right thing- expanding health care to 70,000
Montanans and boosting our economy. We will get the job done.”

>> See MBPC’s full statement here.