Why Is MHCF Focusing on Medicaid and Health Policy?

Providing practical policy solutions to key health systems challenges.

By Dr. Aaron Wernham, MHCF CEO

The Montana Healthcare Foundation exists to improve the health and health care of all Montanans. Clearly, state and federal health policy decisions play a leading role in our ability to make progress toward this goal. For example, in 2015, Montana passed bipartisan legislation to expand Medicaid for low-income adults. The new coverage went into effect in January 2016, and by the end of the first year, Montana’s uninsured rate dropped from 15 to 7.4 percent and more than 30,000 newly-insured people had already accessed preventive health care services.

Unfortunately, state and federal health policies are complex, the timing of the policy process is unpredictable, and the political rhetoric around healthcare can be divisive. The stakes are high. We know that good health policy decisions depend on access to high-quality, timely, and easy-to-understand information, which is often hard to find. For example, last year the U.S. House and Senate were considering major changes to the Affordable Care Act. At that time there was no information on the potential impacts on Montana of these bills, so MHCF stepped in and worked quickly with national experts to provide this information as a resource for the public and policymakers. In our Medicaid and Health Policy focus area, we use three basic strategies:

  1. Policy Analysis: We work with state and national experts to analyze key health care policy proposals, and provide high-quality, non-partisan information to the public and policy-makers throughout our state. You can find our previous reports here.
  2. Supporting Health Policy Organizations: We provide operating support for a small number of organizations that have a strong track record of effective work on policies that benefit Montanan’s health.
  3. Planning and Adaptation: We help state and tribal health agencies find strategies to adapt and maximize the benefits of important state and federal policy changes. For example, more than 90 percent of Montanans struggling with a substance use disorder (SUD) are not in treatment. Montana’s Medicaid expansion created an unprecedented chance to transform our state’s approach to SUD care, but we had no roadmap for doing so. To guide our state’s response to this opportunity, we collaborated with the state health department and national experts to identify the most effective strategies.

In the coming years, Montana will certainly continue to face policy questions that will have profound implications for health and health care. We are committed to using our resources and expertise to provide the best information possible to inform health policy decisions and contribute to a measurably healthier state.