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Havreites speak against suit to overturn Obamacare

Protect Our Care Montana held a call Wednesday with guest speakers from Havre to talk about the potential consequences of the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare, being overturned in a case coming before the Supreme Court.

Andrea Melle, a 52-year-old, resident of Havre, and a single mother spoke about how Montana’s Medicaid Expansion, made possible by the ACA, has affected her life for the better.

“Medicaid Expansion is a Godsend; it has allowed me to have health insurance that I would not have had otherwise,” Melle said.

She said she went through a divorce five years ago and because both of her adult children have autism, she is a full-time caregiver to both of them, making it nearly impossible for her to make enough money to afford health insurance.

When she found out she qualified for the expansion, it made caring for her children long-term more feasible, partially because she can now have yearly check-ups.

Melle said this is particularly important for her because her family has a history of chronic diseases like cancer and glaucoma.

“It’s important for my family that I am healthy and that I am able to maintain my health for as long as possible so I can be here for them as long into the future as God allows me,” she said.

Melle said the ACA and the subsequent Medicaid Expansion make her mission of taking care of her children as long as she can possible.

“I can’t stress enough how important Medicaid Expansion is,” she said, “… I am very, very blessed that I have it, because if I didn’t, I don’t know what I would do.”

Bullhook Community Health Center CEO Kyndra Hall talked about how the ACA and Medicaid Expansion have affected her organizations patients.

“It’s made a huge difference in our patient base,” Hall said, “… We went from 40 percent uninsured patients, now we are at 10 percent.”

She said the majority of that drop is thanks to the Medicaid Expansion, which has allowed people in the community to get health insurance.

She said the health center has seen a substantial increase of people making use of its behavioral health services as a result of the Medicaid Expansion.

“A lot of those who wouldn’t come in before didn’t because they couldn’t afford it,” she said.

Hall said her organization tries to treat the whole patient, addressing not just the issue they came in with, but to help them with anything and everything they are having trouble with medically. But, she said, this wasn’t often possible until the expansion even when reducing prices based on patients’ circumstances.

“When we were trying to do that when Medicaid expansion wasn’t around, we just couldn’t get the patients to get the care that they needed because they were always worried about how they were going to pay for it,” Hall said.

Montana Rep. Jacob Bachmeier, D-Havre, talked about the effects he’s seen the ACA and Medicaid Expansion have since he became a legislator.

“I’ve seen firsthand how it has benefited vulnerable family, friends and constituents,” Bachmeier said, “Without Medicaid Expansion, many of them would not have the help and resources to work for a living and have a good quality of life.”

He said the expansion is the most important thing he’s fought for during his time as a legislator.

Bachmeier said he hopes people across Montana will come together to fight to keep the legislation, which is being used by more than 96,000 Montanans, including 12 percent of Hill County residents.

He criticized the current administration for its support of the lawsuit that would potentially repeal the ACA.

“The Trump administration will argue in support of stripping away health care from some of the most vulnerable Americans in the middle of a major public health crisis,” Bachmeier said.

“Efforts to repeal the ACA have failed more than 50 times because of the overwhelming evidence that it saves lives,” he added.

During the question and answer session, a listener asked if the speakers had anything to say to legislators like U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., who has voted in favor of motions to repeal parts or all of ACA, and President Trump who supports the current lawsuit.

“I wish they would look beyond the dollar sign and realize that there is a human behind it,” Melle said.

Hall said she wants the opportunity to speak with them in person to make her case for it and share her experience.

“We would like to visit with them and show them the numbers and the facts, to show them what a difference Medicaid Expansion has made,” she said.

Hall said people in Washington don’t always see the whole picture.


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