Governor Steve Bullock continued his tour of Montana hospitals and healthcare facilities on Wednesday, touting his Healthy Montana Plan to expand Medicaid. 

Bullock, flanked by President and CEO of Providence St. Patrick Hospital Jeff Fee, and Missoula Mayor John Engen, spoke with administrators and doctors about the benefits of the Healthy Montana Plan, and the cost to hospitals of uncompensated care.

"As we gather here in this hospital, they provided $12 million in uncompensated care in the last year alone," Bullock said. "Those costs ultimately are pushed off onto the community and shifted onto those of us that have insurance, so we all pay higher rates, so it's important for the overall healthcare system to get this done."

Asked about the Republican plan in the legislature, Bullock said it helps fewer people and costs more for the taxpayers.

"The Republican proposal will actually cover only about 10,000 people, whereas this will cover 70,000, and ultimately, it still relies on federal funds, but it doesn't take our fair share," he said. "We know that the vast majority of these 70,000 people are working folks and that the uncompensated care provided by smaller hospitals would still exist if they ended up passing that bill. In the end, we need to expand Medicaid."

Bullock said he believes every legislator should spend some time touring an emergency room, as he did on Wednesday, so they could see what he saw at St. Patrick Hospital, people with no insurance receiving the most expensive care in the healthcare system.

The debate over Bullock's Medicaid expansion bill is scheduled for Friday, March 6 at the state legislature in Helena.