The only Medicaid expansion plan that’s still alive in the Montana Legislature has been assigned to a House Committee; the same committee that killed Governor Bullock’s original Medicaid expansion plan last month.
Senate Bill 405 is a bi-partisan compromise plan to expand Medicaid to some 70,000 Montanans who don’t earn enough money to qualify for federally-subsidized health insurance. It passed out of the state Senate on Monday, and Wednesday morning, House speaker Austin Knudsen assigned it to the House Human Services Committee. That’s the committee, chaired by Bozeman Republican Art Wittich, which held a six-hour hearing on the Governor’s Medicaid plan three weeks ago, and then killed it on a party-line vote.
Wittich has scheduled a hearing for Tuesday morning at 11:00 a.m., and while he’s been quoted as calling the compromise bill "worse than the governor’s bill," he says he’ll make up his mind after hearing testimony.
“Especially about those provisions of the bill that differ from the governor’s bill, such as the Department of Labor workforce management issues. Those were not in the governor’s bill so I’m particularly interested in those. That’s why we have hearings," Wittich said.
The Senator who introduced the bill, Republican Ed Buttrey of Great Falls, declined to comment on the bill’s likely fate. He said only that he hopes for a fair hearing, and that the people of Montana will get a chance to be heard.