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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Montana Medicaid Expansion Enrollment Hits Record During Pandemic

Graph of Montana Medicaid Expansion Enrollment by Month
Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services
Montana Medicaid Expansion Enrollment by Month

A record number of Montanans are enrolled in the state’s expanded health coverage program for low-income adults. More than 9% of the state's population is enrolled in the program.

Enrollment in Montana’s Medicaid expansion climbed to record levels this spring after rising since early 2020. Nearly 99,000 Montanans were enrolled as of the latest data in April.

The last time enrollment peaked was in the fall of 2018, with 96,656 Montanans enrolled. 

Rep. Ed Buttrey (R) - Great Falls
Credit Montana Legislature
Rep. Ed Buttrey (R) - Great Falls

Representative Ed Buttrey from Great Falls is the main architect of the legislation that established and continued expanded Medicaid in Montana. The Republican says the economic slump during the pandemic has spurred enrollment numbers.  

“The program is responding exactly as it should," Buttrey says. "When we get into hard times, people get into hard times, this is a safety net measure to make sure that folks are not neglecting their health care and that providers are getting paid for the services they provide.”

According to state health department data, since the start of 2020, Sheridan County saw the greatest growth in Medicaid expansion enrollment with a 40% increase. Counties across the state saw on average a 20% growth. 

Chuck Council, a spokesperson for the state health department, says the state stopped disenrolling people from Medicaid programs during the public health emergency and that’s led to the increase. 

Council says the health department will resume taking people off of the programs if they’re no longer eligible once Montana’s public health emergency ends.

Corin Cates-Carney manages MTPR’s daily and long-term news projects. After spending more than five years living and reporting across Western and Central Montana, he became news director in early 2020.
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