Montana expanded Medicaid like many other states, but it also included provisions the other states don’t have. One of those provisions is for a program called HELP-link and Bureau of Business and Economic Research Economist Bryce Ward believes this part of the legislation may be why Montana has succeed in an area others have not. Ward explains the program.

“It says to people who enrolled in the expansion, 'hey come here, take a survey, tell us about your job prospects or barriers that you might feel like you’re facing to getting a better job or getting a job,'” said Ward. “Then if you proceeded down the path you got matched with somebody who would help try and match you to existing services, mostly to other federal programs that might be of assistance.”

In many other states Medicaid expansion was followed by a decrease in labor force participation, but not in Montana.

“It was a little bit surprising to see the effect that we saw, which was a six to nine percent increase in labor force participation among Montanans with incomes less than 138% of poverty line,” Ward said. “I want to keep track of the next year of data that comes out later in the fall and if we still see effects than lets dig deeper. I think it's a real success, right, if we can increase labor force participation among low income people, I think that is something we all consider a win.”

Ward says the data is a little early yet, so will need more analysis, but if HELP-Link is as beneficial as it appears there would be good reason to apply it in other states.


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