Health insurance

Opinion: Know Your Medicare Options |


During the winter holidays, you might take some time to rest, relax and take care of yourself. We encourage some of this self-care to include reviewing your health insurance. Yes, I know, that’s not exactly what you want to do with your free time, but we promise your future self will thank you!

Why is Medicare Important? Well, on the one hand, we are still in the midst of a public health crisis. Second, we know how quickly injuries can occur, especially while skiing or just walking on icy sidewalks! Third, if you are a student in the university system, you must be covered, unless you are a qualifying student for Indian health service.

At Forward Montana, we work with young people across the state and recognize how confusing systems like politics and healthcare can be. That’s why we’re here to try to demystify your options.

If you have a job and you are covered by your employer or your parents’ plan, great! You are ready (thanks, Affordable Care Act). Whether you are in-state or out-of-state, you may want to check your network to see doctors who are in the network. Doctors who aren’t covered (AKA off-grid) can end up being tough on your wallet as you’ll pay more to see them, sometimes a lot more.

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If you are not enrolled in your parents’ plan and are not getting insurance at your workplace, don’t panic. Your choices include Montana Medicaid, the Health Insurance Market, and the Montana University System Student Plan.

Montana Medicaid offers free or low cost full coverage. This means that most of your health care costs will be paid for by Montana Medicaid. For a single person, you may qualify if you earn less than $ 1,481 per month or $ 17,774 per year. If you earn more, you may be able to purchase a Marketplace plan.

The Montana market has plans you may already be familiar with, like Blue Cross Blue Shield. Most Montanais who enroll in these plans are eligible for tax credits that make your monthly payments more affordable (another provision of the Affordable Care Act). The plans are also more affordable than ever because of the American Rescue Plan Act. You have until January 15 to sign up, so check it out today to make sure you’re covered on time.

The final option for Montana students is the Montana University System Student Plan. Students taking at least six credits may be eligible to purchase this option. The Academic Blue plan offers full coverage, and students can choose to purchase the plan during enrollment… but it costs quite a bit. Academic Blue costs around $ 385 per month and is not eligible for free financial assistance such as tax credits. If you get financial aid it can be paid off with that, but we’ve calculated the numbers and that’s about $ 18,000 more on your existing student loan debt for four years of study.

We know this world of health insurance is complicated and messy, especially if you are trying to navigate it on your own. Until federal policies reform health insurance inequalities, we still need to make sure that we are covering our health care needs. Students have more coverage options than ever before, so don’t wait too long! Registration open to the health insurance market ends on January 15. To learn more about your coverage options and get free help, visit or We hope everyone can take a few minutes to see if there is a better and more affordable health care option.

Kiersten Iwai is Executive Director of Forward Montana.

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