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Bullock Encourages Montanans to Provide Public Comment on HELP Act Proposal

Bullock Encourages Montanans to Provide Public Comment on HELP Act Proposal

Public Comment Period Begins July 7, Continues for 60 Days

Tuesday, July 7, 2015/Categories: Department of Health and Human Services, Governor's Office/Tags: DPHHS, HELP Act

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                         July 7, 2015

CONTACTS:

Dave Parker, Communications Director, Governor’s Office, 444-9844

Mike Wessler, Deputy Communications Director, Governor’s Office, 444-9725

Helena, Mont. – Governor Bullock today called for public comments on Montana’s plan for the Montana Health and Economic Livelihood Partnership (HELP) Act. The proposal, called a Medicaid waiver, is Montana’s request for approval from the federal government on Medicaid expansion provisions not traditionally included as part of the Medicaid program. The HELP Act brings Montana tax dollars home to extend health care coverage to residents between the ages of 19- 64 earning less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level—roughly $16,000/year for an individual, or $28,000/year for a family of three.

“The HELP Act will not only save lives, but will also create jobs by bringing our tax dollars back from the federal government to extend health coverage,” Bullock said. “This draft waiver is an important step toward allowing Montanans to access coverage, while throwing a lifeline to Montana’s rural hospitals, putting Montanans to work, and reducing the cost-shifting that is increasing costs for those of us fortunate enough to have health insurance.”

The posting of the draft waiver starts a 60 day public comment period on the parts of the HELP Act which require federal approval. Public comments may be submitted until midnight on September 7. In addition, the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) will host two public meetings where interested Montanans can provide their comment in person. Remote access to the meetings will be available via webinar for those who preregister.

Instructions about how to provide comment and/or participate in either public meeting has been posted on the DPHHS website at dphhs.mt.gov/medicaidexpansion. Comments can either be mailed to Jo Thompson, PO Box 202951, Helena, MT 59620-2951, or submitted electronically to jothompson@mt.gov. Anyone can sign up to receive regular updates at the DPHHS website.

After this comment period, DPHHS staff will submit the waiver to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for approval.

“In Montana, we recognized that doing nothing for our friends, neighbors, and family members without health insurance wasn’t an option, so we put partisanship aside and found a solution to this challenge,” Bullock said. “This is the beginning of a long process, but as we prepare to submit this draf waiver to the federal government, I’m confident they will quickly recognize that the health and wellbeing of tens of thousands of Montanans are counting on us to get this right.”

Bullock signed the HELP Act (SB405), which was sponsored by Republican Sen. Ed Buttrey, into law on April 29, 2015.

The HELP Act, which received bipartisan support in both houses of the Montana legislature, will provide low-cost health insurance to Montanans that make too much money for traditional Medicaid, but too little to receive subsidies on the health insurance exchange. In addition, the measure seeks to assist clients in finding better paying jobs by connecting them with career services through the Montana Department of Labor and Industry.

The federal government covers 100 percent of the costs of expansion through 2016, at which point their contribution slowly decreases to 90 percent in 2020.

The draft waiver can be found at: http://dphhs.mt.gov/medicaidexpansion

The first HELP Act Oversight Committee meeting has been scheduled for Monday, August 17 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in Room 137 of the Capitol in Helena. A meeting agenda will be posted to the DPHHS website in early August. A list of committee members has already been posted.

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