Montana’s Indian people have poorer health, higher disease rates, lower life expectancy and greater difficulty obtaining health care than other Montanans. Nearly 40 percent of American Indians in Montana are uninsured. Many are ineligible for Indian Health Services (IHS) because they do not live on a reservation and/or are not a member of a federally recognized tribe. And the American Indian Montanans who do have access to IHS do not receive comprehensive health care; they must deal with severe underfunding and understaffing, as well as long wait lists and rationed care. Many Indian people are unable to receive needed care.
Governor Bill Richardson handily won his election in 2003, returning the state to Democratic rule after eight years under a Republican governor. Richardson campaigned on universal health care, promising health care coverage to every New Mexican within four years. While his health care task force continues to meet and a formal plan has not yet been developed, Richardson’s embrace of the Medicaid waiver and his cuts to Medicaid have advocates concerned that his vision of universal health care is significantly different than theirs.
All the Democratic presidential candidates have made detail-laden speeches explaining how they would provide health coverage for uninsured Americans and revamp the Bush administration’s tax policies. Still, the proposals from the Democratic candidates represent an abandonment of the incremental steps in political favor since the Clinton plan was quashed in 1994 and promise to dramatically reduce the number of uninsured. With the exception of long-shot candidate Kucinich, all the plans build upon the existing public and private health insurance system.
Since Idaho Governor Batt used CHIP funds to expand Medicaid for children up to 150 percent of poverty by executive order in 1997, Idaho Republicans have been looking for ways to gut the state’s already lean Medicaid program. By crafting an expansion program that promises to provide some health insurance to those who currently have none, Senator Dean Cameron managed to effectively silence opposition to reduced benefits and increased cost-sharing. His program, the Access Card, uses federal CHIP matching dollars to subsidize the cost of purchasing health insurance on the private market.
Maine’s Governor Baldacci made health care a central issue of his campaign, frequently referring to Maine’s “health care crisis” during speeches. Over 180,000 Mainers are without health care coverage, and the state faces rapidly rising health care costs. Dirigo Health, the centerpiece of Governor Baldacci’s legislative agenda, follows several years of significant health care advances in Maine, including the groundbreaking prescription drug negotiated discount program and a patients’ bill of rights. While Dirigo Health offers the promise of employer-based universal coverage, it remains to be seen if employers will participate, a necessary element for its success.
All human beings deserve respect for their dignity and human rights. Idaho’s immigrants will continue contributing and giving to Idaho – and also striving for the promise of justice and equity to be fulfilled.
- … King County’s Economy
- … Snohomish County’s Economy
- … the Economies of Pierce and Thurston Counties
- … Spokane County’s Economy
This series of reports provide overviews of the important contributions Medicaid make to the economies of and the quality of life in various counties. Medicaid spending directly purchases goods and services, and supports health care industry jobs. These direct health care purchases trigger further cycles of earning and purchases that ripple throughout the above counties, affecting individuals and businesses not directly associated with health care and generating jobs, income, and economic activity.
Over the past five years, Montana’s Legislature passed large tax breaks for big corporations and the wealthy. Montana ends the legislative session basically where it began: with an unstable revenue stream and deep cuts to public programs that worsen economic conditions, increase the state’s long term costs and budget problems, and shred Montana’s safety net – eliminating many of the supports Montana’s poorest families need to live safe, healthy, and productive lives.
Nationwide, people of color are at a greater risk of being uninsured than are whites, and they face many more obstacles to accessing the health care they need. The disparities in the availability of quality health care are mirrored by poorer health outcomes among people of color. Although Washington is considered a leader in health care, when it comes to health coverage, people of color still fare far worse here than do whites. Increased commitment to health care access – and not a withdrawal from prior commitments – is needed to reverse our state’s great health care inequality. Fixing the grave racial disparities in Washington’s health care system must become a priority of our government.
While some states have pursued strategies that harm consumers and do not address rising prescription drug prices, other states have started negotiating with drug companies to lower the cost of prescription drugs and are already saving money. By using multi-agency and multi-state prescription drug purchasing pools and/or preferred drug lists, states have projected or realized savings of 5 to 15 percent of their total prescription drug costs.