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Montana HELP Act – An Overview

What is it and what does it do?  This new proposal being presented in the legislature is designed to increase the health of Montanans while addressing the use of emergency rooms by those without insurance.  The Montana Health and Economic Livelihood Partnership (HELP) creates insurance availability at an affordable cost for those 70,000 poor Montanans without health insurance which supports our rural hospitals by reducing uncompensated care costs.

Montana HELP will be available for those not eligible for Medicaid but below the 138% of poverty who can’t use the federal exchange.  This will be private insurance, not an expansion of Medicaid.  Recipients will have to make premium payments and copays which are adjusted for income levels.  If premiums aren’t paid, then people are disenrolled.  This creates an incentive to work, increasing income moves people from Montana HELP to the federal exchange, making affordable insurance available at all income levels.  There is no big jump in individual costs to deter the incentive to work.

There are incentives for healthy behavior, legal reforms to reduce litigation costs passed on to all of us, reductions in waste, fraud and abuse, and keeps Montana dollars here in Montana.  While this program starts out using federal dollars, it has provisions that intend to allow it to continue without federal or state support in the future.  And to make sure this is working the way it is intended, this program sunsets in four years and would have to be reauthorized, or not if it isn’t working.

This program coordinates with other programs in the state that address the needs of people in poverty.  Montana HELP has an asset test included, so a short run of unemployment doesn’t automatically mean coverage for those with other means.  It includes coordination with programs to get people training and placement in better jobs to increase their income levels reduces the need for Montana HELP.

This program is three years in the making with a focus on leveraging the programs that Montanans already provide to those in need and furthering personal responsibility.  This is truly a hand up and not a hand out.

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