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Health

Roughly 5 In 8 Montana Businesses Had Workers Enrolled In Medicaid Expansion Last Year

The Medicaid Expansion and Montana Employers 2020 report

A new report released Tuesday says around 60 percent of Montana businesses last year had at least one worker enrolled in Medicaid expansion. Enrollment in the health care program for low income adults has been on the rise for the last four months.

At a meeting in Bozeman, Barbara Wagner, chief economist of the Montana Department of Labor & Industry, said nearly 20 percent of the state’s entire workforce was enrolled in Medicaid at one point or another last year.

"This really underscores how important it is for Medicaid to be there to help make sure those workers are healthy so that they can come and contribute to our economy," Wagner said.

Wagner was talking about findings from a new report, which was put together by the Montana departments of Labor & Industry, Revenue, and Public Health and Human Services.

It’s an update to last year’s report that looked at the effects of Medicaid expansion on workers and businesses across the state.

The report shows the vast majority of employers in the accommodations and food service sector had employees enrolled in the program.

Gov. Steve Bullock said if businesses statewide had been on the hook for employee health care last year "the costs would have been somewhere between $430 million and $1.1 billion dollars in 2019 alone."

Bullock said employers benefit from expansion by not paying for private health insurance, avoiding tax penalties if they have a large business and by having healthy workers.

"Finally, the report shows that seven in 10 individuals eligible for Medicaid expansion are working," Bullock said.

The report says those who aren't working are in school, receiving workforce training, taking care of family members or are ill or disabled themselves.

In 2019, Bullock and the Montana Legislature reached a deal to continue the state’s Medicaid expansion program with the inclusion of work or “community engagement” requirements. That policy change is still awaiting approval from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Enrollment in the program started rising this May for the first time since its peak in August 2018.

Medicaid expansion is set to expire in 2025 in Montana.