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Children most affected by Medicaid access changes



Billings, Montana – The termination of the COVID-19-related public health emergency last year resulted in significant modifications to Medicaid eligibility for a large number of people nationwide.

As a matter of fact, between April and November of 2023, the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) reported that over 100,000 individuals will no longer be eligible for Medicaid.

More than 30 percent of Montanans lost their Medicaid coverage after being determined to be ineligible, and nearly 64 percent of them lost it for procedural reasons—that is, DPHHS did not receive the required paperwork from them.

Some of our patients who were receiving care but had their coverage revoked have ceased to visit us. “We frequently have to force our community members to choose between being able to buy groceries and seeing a doctor,” stated Megan Littlefield, Chief Medical Officer and Primary Care Physician at Riverstone Health.

She added that she is particularly worried about high-risk kids with chronic illnesses who can’t receive a correct diagnosis, which makes it difficult for them to get treatment.

“A lot of the work that I do is working with high-risk children so children who have developmental delays, speech delays, and autism. 4000 children in Yellowstone County have lost Medicaid coverage through this process. This has horrible consequences because not only are we not identifying medical problems earlier but for people who already have diseases they’re having more complications. So, a number of these children with special needs who need these life sustaining services have been cut off,” emphasized Dr. Littlefield.

Riverstone Health has developed several strategies, such as hiring care managers, to assist patients in navigating the Medicaid predicament and regaining access to coverage.

“Riverstone Health has care managers that can help patients re-enroll in Medicaid most efficiently. Also, for those who don’t qualify, we’re able to connect them to other types of insurance. We also have a sliding fee scale for all our patients who are either uninsured or underinsured to help with treatment costs,” added Dr. Littlefield.


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