Medicaid Expansion Recommended to Help Solve Problem

Worried About MoneyA new financial check-up on Montana families shows that most are doing fine, but more than 40 percent are walking a fine line because they have little or no savings.

The Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) report looks at financial security – examining liquid assets, educational attainment and health insurance coverage, among other things.

Karen Heisler, director of asset development at Rural Dynamics, Inc. in Great Falls, says her non-profit organization knows through its credit counseling services that too many families are living on the edge.

“It’s not that they’re irresponsible, but they’re living paycheck-to-paycheck and an emergency happens and they use their credit card,” she explains. “And then the next emergency happens and they start piling on top of each other and pretty soon they’re in trouble.”

Heisler says medical bills are the top reason Montanans run into financial trouble.

The CFED report recommends that a family of four needs to have saved close to $6,000, so needs could be covered for three months in case a job is lost or to cover a big bill.

Montana ranks ninth overall, which Heisler attributes to the relatively low cost of living in the state. Other findings include a look at how families see themselves.

“We have a lot of people living in poverty,” Heisler says. “Even though these people consider themselves middle class, they’re struggling on a day-to-day basis. And so we talk here about livable-wage jobs a lot.”

Heisler says the official poverty line for a family of four in Montana is an income under about $24,000 a year.

The report recommends the state expand Medicaid coverage and invest in ways to lure higher-skilled jobs to the state, as well as encouraging more residents to earn college or technical degrees.

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