Medicaid Expansion Pivotal to Montana’s Fight Against Cancer; Residents Should Check Their Coverage Status Following Unwinding

Statement from American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network Government Relations Director Kristin Page-Nei

April 18, 2024

HELENA, Mont. –– To mark Medicaid Awareness Month, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) is shining a bright light on what Medicaid expansion means for Montana families in the fight against cancer. Residents should check their status following the completion of the unwinding, as 1 in 10 were removed from coverage, many for procedural reasons and who might still be eligible.

Montanans who are unsure if they qualify for Medicaid, if they remain enrolled or if they qualify for an affordable plan on the health exchange should visit Cover Montana at to learn more about their enrollment options.

Simply having health coverage is one of the largest determining factors for survivorship against cancer. Research continues to show that cancer patients living in states with lower income Medicaid eligibility limits see significantly worse survival rates for most cancer in comparison to states with higher limits. Medicaid expansion has delivered staggering results for Montana health outcomes and literally saved lives. Through February, the Montana Department of Health & Human Services reports Medicaid expansion enrollees have benefitted from 107,224 colon cancer and 147,778 breast cancer screenings since 2017. The state also reports 30,485 cases of colon cancer potentially averted and 4,088 cases of breast cancer treated. 

"Expanding Medicaid in Montana has been pivotal in our fight against cancer,” ACS CAN Government Relations Director Kristin Page-Nei said. “We’ve witnessed remarkable progress in increasing screenings for breast and colorectal cancers. Access to screening is a cornerstone of improving health outcomes. Of those screened for breast cancer, a significant number now have access to life-saving treatment. Similarly, through colon cancer screenings, many have potentially avoided the onset of cancer through early polyp removal."

As many as 70,000 Montana residents fell into the coverage gap prior to Medicaid expansion in 2016. Those without coverage face one of the biggest barriers to receiving their critical cancer screenings: cost. Without expansion, many individuals would once again fall into the “coverage gap” -- making too much to qualify for Medicaid and too little to afford private insurance. Without health coverage, those Montanans would be more likely to detect cancer at a later stage when survivorship is less likely and treatment is costlier, and sometimes forced to forgo treatment altogether. 

Cancer continues to be one of the costliest diseases to treat as evidenced by surveys that have found that a majority of cancer patients and survivors have accrued medical debt. This year alone, nearly 7,310 Montanans will be diagnosed with cancer – too many of whom will be uninsured when they receive the devastating news. 

Media Contacts

Shawn O'Neal
Senior Regional Media Advocacy Manager