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Health & Medicine

Medicaid Cutbacks Taking a Toll on Safety-Net Health Services

— June 18, 2024

Montana cuts are leaving many without access to essential services.

Countless people across the United States count on Medicaid to receive healthcare services. With continued cutbacks, millions will not be able to afford care and will not get attention for the conditions they are facing. Sadly, that’s becoming a reality for more and more individuals as a result of decreased accessibility in many states.

Montana is one of the states where these cutbacks are being felt particularly strongly. With many people relying on so-called safety-net health service providers to get care, their options quickly run out when Medicaid eligibility goes away. And, as fewer people qualify for Medicaid, the clinics that offer these services face budget shortfalls and have to cut services or close altogether.

The situation with RiverStone Health in Montana is a great example of what is happening to health clinics. This is a clinic that serves people in poverty in Billings, Montana. Until recently, it was performing well and was financially sound. Due to cuts, however, it has had to lay off workers and eliminate some of the key services that it offered, such as closing a high blood pressure management center.

These cuts weren’t not desired, but rather necessary as the result of a $3.2 million revenue loss. This loss was the direct result of more than 100,000 people being disenrolled from Medicaid by the state of Montana. With fewer people available to receive care through Medicaid, the clinic has seen a drop in reimbursements and is struggling to make ends meet as a result.

Medicaid Cutbacks Taking a Toll on Safety-Net Health Services
Photo by Sasun Bughdaryan on Unsplash

Cutbacks in available services, and the reduced number of people eligible for Medicaid, simply means that people aren’t going to get healthcare in some cases. If individuals are taken off of Medicaid by the state but can’t afford their own treatment, the only remaining option is to go without care. That’s far from ideal and has negative impacts on the population as a whole, in addition to on the individuals.

Beyond the decreased enrollment in Medicaid, there is also the problem of things like rising employment costs to factor into the equation. With it costing more and more to staff clinics like these, and with the cost of medical supplies and other necessities also climbing, there isn’t much room left in the budget to absorb these changes. Even with careful management and creative planning to save money, it’s just not a sustainable situation with so many people being taken out of the available pool of Medicaid patients.

Year after year, it seems the United States continues to struggle with figuring out how to provide healthcare to its people. There are endless debates on the right way to provide healthcare, yet for all of the arguing, nothing seems to get better. Unless something changes dramatically in terms of policy and the way these programs are funded, it seems inevitable that more and more people will wind up underserved in terms of healthcare – and the results of that shortcoming can be devastating.


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