New Report Examines the Impact Montana’s Medicaid Program Has on Health in The State

Medicaid helps thousands access preventive care annually and supported a 1,400% increase in mental health treatment during the pandemic

Bozeman, Mont. (February 2, 2021) – A new report released today provides an in-depth analysis of Montana’s Medicaid program, its beneficiaries and costs, and how it affects the health system and health outcomes of Montanans. Montana Medicaid covers 265,000 children and adults with low incomes, two-thirds of whom live in rural Montana. The report provides data on Medicaid’s role in Montana’s health system and the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. The report was produced by Manatt Health and commissioned by the Montana Healthcare Foundation.

“Montana’s Medicaid program covers roughly one-quarter of Montanans. This report sheds light on the role it plays in improving health and strengthening health care and mental health services for people throughout our state, particularly in rural Montana,” said Montana Healthcare Foundation CEO Dr. Aaron Wernham.

Key findings of the report include:

  • Medicaid helped halve the number of uninsured Montanans: Montana’s Medicaid program provides 25% of Montanans access to health services. Since 2008, the number of people without insurance was cut in half as the state expanded eligibility for its Medicaid and CHIP programs.
  • Montanans are using Medicaid to prevent serious illnesses: In 2019, 69,000 people went to wellness exams, 65,000 got vaccines, thousands received cancer screenings, and 138,000 visited the dentist. Nearly 70% of Medicaid expansion enrollees reported improved medical care access since enrollment, and over 40% noted improved health.
  • Montanans are accessing treatment for mental health issues and substance use disorders: In 2019, over 30,000 expansion enrollees received mental health treatment, and over 5,000 received support for substance use disorders, services which are extremely limited for those with no source of payment.
  • Medicaid provided a safety net during the coronavirus pandemic: When people lost employment during the pandemic, Medicaid provided a coverage source and helped providers adapt quickly to deliver services. Medicaid also promptly expanded coverage for telehealth services and, as a result, behavioral health visits increased by 1,400%, and physical health visits increased by 100%.
  • Medicaid expansion supports a healthy workforce and local businesses: Nearly 75% of Medicaid expansion enrollees are working adults, many of whom stay on the program for less than two years. Nearly 60% of businesses in Montana have at least one employee enrolled in Medicaid. 25% of businesses have at least 25% of their employees enrolled.
  • Medicaid expansion supports Tribal communities: Of the 50,000 American Indians enrolled in Medicaid, 16,000 enrolled as part of the expansion. Medicaid expansion has vastly expanded access to preventive care and specialty referrals for American Indian people in Montana.  
  • Rural hospitals stay in business: Medicaid expansion helped halve uncompensated care costs for hospitals in Montana, as Medicaid provided a stable, reliable source of payment for medical claims. Nationally, hospitals in states that have not expanded Medicaid are six times more likely to close than those in expansion states. No hospitals in Montana have closed since Medicaid expanded in 2015.