Montana Insurance Commissioner Monica J. Lindeen has formally thrown her support behind an effort to expand the Montana Medicaid program.

Lindeen formally endorsed Initiative I-170, the Healthy Montana Initiative, which would expand the Montana Medicaid program. Spokeswoman Jennifer McKee said the current system excludes tens of thousands of low income Montanans currently ineligible for health insurance tax credits.

"Those tax credits are only for people who have a household income between 100 percent and 400 percent of the poverty level. If you have an income below that, you don't qualify for those tax credits, but you also don't qualify for the state's Medicaid program," McKee said.

Several methods to expand Medicaid have been proposed, one is for the governor to call a special session of the legislature, or to simply wait for the next session to begin in 2015, however, Lindeen has chosen to endorse Initiative I-170 instead.

"The effort that the commissioner has endorsed today is Citizens Initiative 170, in which Montanans would have to gather signatures to get it on the ballot in the fall," McKee said. "In that process the citizens would be asked to vote on the issue directly."

McKee said expanding Medicaid would benefit the state's economy, as well. Covering more working Montanans would create jobs – about 12,700 new health care jobs according to Lindeen’s study -- which would lead to between $477 million and $529 million in labor income generated yearly in Montana.

Lindeen spokeswoman Jennifer McKee