The HELP Act passed by the 2015 Montana Legislature received approval from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services today, November 2. According to Governor Bullock’s Health Policy Adviser Tara Veazy, Montana’s Medicaid Expansion plan needed federal approval because of its use of a third party administrator, namely Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

"The federal government hasn't ever seen a system of delivery that looks exactly like that, so we had to get approval for that," Veazey said. "We also had to get approval for some of the cost-sharing provisions that were in the HELP Act that require people on the program to pay a small amount of their income towards premiums and co-pays."

The expansion should include everyone under 138 percent of the federal poverty level, which is roughly $16,000 per year for an individual and $33,000 for a family of four. Veazey said that enrollment can begin right away.

"People can start enrolling today. In fact, I believe people are enrolling as we speak at," Veazey said. "They will be able to check and see if they are eligible and get enrolled in the program for services to begin January 1, 2016."

Veazey said she hopes the Montana plan will be an inspiration to states that have not yet expanded Medicaid. So far, 20 states have chosen not to expand and Montana is the only state in 2015 to choose to do so. Only eight states have come up with a state-specific expansion plan.

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