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Report: Medicaid Cuts Would Hurt Montana's Kids

The number of uninsured children dropped by 7 percent between 2009 and 2015 in Montana. (Marc Rusines/Flickr)
The number of uninsured children dropped by 7 percent between 2009 and 2015 in Montana. (Marc Rusines/Flickr)
June 8, 2017

MISSOULA, Mont. – Medicaid is critical for providing health care to rural communities in Montana and nationwide – especially for children, a new report says.

According to the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, more than one-third of Treasure State children rely on Medicaid.

It says the number of uninsured children across the country has dropped since the Affordable Care Act was passed, even in states such as Montana that didn't originally expand Medicaid.

Rural Montanan Lisa Davey says she's seen the positive effects of Medicaid coverage for her son, who's had three brain operations but must travel to get treatment because there are no pediatric specialists in Davey's area.

"We actually drive seven hours to Seattle for him to get care, and one of the things that Medicaid does for us is, they give us about a $300 stipend that helps pay for gas to get there," she states.

Montana ranks in the top 10 for decreases in the rate of uninsured children in rural areas, dropping from 15 percent in 2009 to 8 percent in 2015. Montana expanded Medicaid in 2016.

Proposals from President Donald Trump and the U.S. House would slash $1.4 trillion combined from Medicaid over the next decade.

Davey also works with struggling families for the Missoula Coalition for Disability Rights. She says Medicaid expansion has protected many from unaffordable medical costs and even debt.

"Taking away Medicaid doesn't mean that you take away the need for that care, or that people suddenly find the resources for it,” she points out. “Families, especially in Montana and in rural areas, don't have the resources to pay for that medical care."

Davey notes that Medicaid also provides funding for rural health centers and hospitals.

Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, says this research shows Medicaid is a crucial support for children, families, seniors and people with disabilities.

"Our nation's leaders face a really important decision on whether or not to cut Medicaid and turn their backs on the progress we've made in helping children and families,” she states. “That's so important for folks to understand, that the Medicaid program is really the backbone of health insurance in these rural areas and small towns."

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT