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Social workers: Montana cannot afford to end Medicaid expansion

Thousands of Montanans have chosen a career in social work to help individuals and families across this state in life-changing ways. The day in the life of a social worker changes every day and no two social workers in Montana have the same exact job description. But one thing is clear for all of us – we know how important health care access is.

As social workers, we are responsible for supporting and guiding individuals, families, and groups of people to cope with problems they’re facing. We work hard to help improve the quality of life for our patients. Some of us are advocates for children in the foster care system, and others work in the classroom to help kids with special emotional needs in school. Many are licensed addiction counselors who help individuals in their recovery from substance use disorders. We work in medical facilities to develop appropriate care plans for patients when they are discharged. Some of us help families figure out complex paperwork, to connect them with safe housing, financial assistance classes, and health care.

At the very core of our work – and what all social workers share regardless of specialization in childhood trauma or licensed addiction counseling – is a commitment to improving access to affordable health care. Medicaid expansion in Montana matters to us because it is critical to the people we serve. It has made a world of difference for individuals and families who could not otherwise afford health care coverage, were not covered by their employers to access health care services, or were ineligible for VA health care. When people can finally afford the care they need, they are more likely to be more stable individuals, better parents, stronger students, more consistent employees.

Montana cannot afford to end or change Medicaid expansion that would kick people off their insurance when they need it most. When parents lose access to needed health care and their physical and mental health needs go untreated, kids are worse off. Many of those who would lose coverage have serious health needs, so even temporary interruptions in treatment can lead to deterioration in health, increased emergency hospitalizations, and higher health costs. Medicaid expansion is a critically important tool for Montana to more effectively deliver and pay for behavioral health services.

Social work is a dynamic, challenging, and satisfying profession that is committed to the empowerment of individuals, families, and communities and the promotion of a more just society. We don’t do it because it pays well. We do this work because we know that we are helping to meet the needs and protect the dignity of all people. At the end of the day, our work makes our communities better, stronger, and safer places to live for everyone.

We are on the front lines of health care access for Montanans. Our work may look different every single day, but one thing we all have in common is witnessing the profound benefits that Medicaid expansion as brought to our state – person by person, family by family.

We urge our legislators to continue Medicaid expansion as it is. It is working. It is helping people and our communities.

Ann Truesdell is the Executive Director of the National Association of Social Workers – Montana, a professional organization of social workers that works to enhance the professional growth and development of its members, to create and maintain professional standards, and to advance sound social policies with over 500 members in Montana.

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