A study by the Montana Healthcare Foundation ties less visits to the emergency department with the expansion of Medicaid in Montana.

The study's results show that those on Medicaid are getting primary care for health conditions instead of waiting until they have to visit the emergency room. The findings said the enrollees were seeing the emergency department less for every year they were in the program. For emergency dental care, the visits were down more than a third in a three-year sample.

Montana Healthcare Foundation CEO Dr. Aaron Wernham said in a news release, "People were able to access lower-cost outpatient care that helps prevent severe illness. These results offer a powerful validation of the (Montana) Legislature's core reasons for expanding Medicaid." Montana also spends about 12 percent of its general fund for Medicaid, which the report said is less than similar states.

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The program for low-income Montanans was expanded in 2016 with the Montana Health and Economic Livelihood Partnership (HELP) Act, for those with incomes under 133 percent of the federal poverty level.

Telehealth and rural percentages were higher, too

Telehealth use also was up, with Medicaid-covered people using the remote visits with medical professionals. Part of that, of course, was because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But still, the telehealth increase from 2019 to 2020 was over 2,000 percent.

The report showed Medicaid helping many in Montana's rural areas. In 2021, it noted that over 60 percent of the enrollees were in rural areas. Also, treatment and services were provided for over 16,000 Native Americans.

Manatt Health produced the study, which is the second annual analysis. It was commissioned by the Montana Healthcare Foundation and the full report is online.

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