Olivia Riutta 

This holiday season, more Montanans will be navigating the annual open enrollment period for health insurance, seeking quality and affordable health insurance plans for their families. Cover Montana has a team of health insurance navigators who can help Montanans make sense of their options during this crucial period, which runs from November 1, 2023, to January 15, 2024.  

But this year stands out because more than 100,000 Montanans are no longer covered by Medicaid or Healthy Montana Kids (HMK). Like all states, Montana’s DPHHS is reviewing its entire Medicaid caseload after a three-year redetermination “pause” during the pandemic. This “unwinding” is a once-in-a-generation process that has proven to be challenging.    

For those who lost their Medicaid or HMK coverage, DPHHS estimates that about 65% lost coverage due to procedural reasons --- meaning someone didn’t return the requested paperwork, such as the renewal packets or a paystub to verify their income. An additional 30% of folks who lost coverage had incomes that no longer qualify them for Medicaid or Healthy Montana Kids. 

Now, tens of thousands of people who have relied on Medicaid or HMK for healthcare insurance are wondering what to do. Our goal this holiday season is to reassure folks that they have affordable coverage options. The Cover Montana team can help people look at all the available options to get the health care coverage they need, including possible re-enrollment in Montana Medicaid and Healthy Montana Kids.  

More than 50,000 Montanans currently get health insurance through HealthCare.gov because they are either self-employed or their employer cannot afford to provide coverage. More than 87% of Montanans on the marketplace receive tax credits to make their monthly premiums or out-of-pocket costs more affordable. Nationally, 4 in 5 HealthCare.gov customers can find health care coverage for $10 or less per month after tax credits. The Marketplace can help people in all 56 counties, but it is especially important to 74% of all marketplace enrollees who live in rural Montana.   

Remember that plans on the Marketplace at Healthcare.gov are quality plans that cover doctor’s visits, prescription drugs, emergencies, and hospitalization, including no-cost preventive visits like immunization, certain cancer screenings, and annual wellness visits. Even if someone already gets their health coverage on Healthcare.gov, now is the time to shop around and ensure they have the best plan for their current health needs and monthly budget.   

While holiday health insurance shopping may look different this year, Cover Montana can simplify the process and assist in finding the right health insurance coverage for every Montanan --- a gift that lasts all year.  

If you or someone you know has questions about applying for and enrolling in health insurance or re-enrolling in Medicaid, enrollment assisters are ready to help answer questions and walk through the application process. Our services are always free and confidential. If you need coverage that starts on January 1st, you must enroll by December 15th. Go to www.CoverMT.org and “find local help.” You can find enrollment help and even sign up for an appointment with just your zip code. You can also call us at 1-877-568-6284 and get help over the phone right now. You can learn more, see what you may qualify for, and find local assistance at www.CoverMT.org.   

Olivia Riutta is the Director of Population Health at the Montana Primary Care Association (MPCA) and leads Cover Montana. Cover Montana is a program of the nonprofit MPCA that is working to connect Montanans with information and enrollment assistance to connect Montanans to health insurance coverage that works for their monthly budget and healthcare needs.