MTPR

Wittich Suspicious Of Montana Medicaid Expansion Waiver Application

Aug 17, 2015

Rep. Art Wittich
Credit Courtesy Photo

NOTE: This post has been edited on 8/19 to clarify information about disenrollment from Medicaid related to not engaging in work or job training programs. 

Montana is holding public meetings this week to get input on its Medicaid expansion plans.

As the state prepares to ask the federal government to accept its version of Medicaid expansion, one critic of the proposal wants to make sure the state is telling the whole story.

Montana is asking the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS to give it a waiver from regular Medicaid rules so the state can expand the government health program for children, the disabled and low income people on terms state lawmakers passed earlier this year.

Representative Art Wittich, a Belgrade Republican, says the state's draft waiver application appears to leave out provisions requiring some recipients to work or look for work to continue receiving benefits if they fail to pay premiums for Medicaid coverage.

“That language was not in this waiver application,” Wittich said, “and I want to make sure that CMS has that so that there isn't a misunderstanding down the road when the state wants to enforce it.”

Wittich sits on a special oversight committee for Montana Medicaid expansion established in the new law that met Monday.

Tara Veazey, the governor's health policy advisor assured Wittich that Montana's waiver application will reflect the language in the state Medicaid expansion law passed by the legislature this year.  

Democratic Representative Pat Noonan, who's also on the committee said this is Montana's opportunity to prove that low income people want opportunities to work, and not just free health care.

Duane Preshinger, with Montana's Department of Health and Human Services told a special oversight committee today that getting the expansion right is going to take time.

“This is not going to be a perfect rollout,” he said. “We're not going to hit the ground on January first and be, wow, there's no issues with this.” The state is taking public comments on its Medicaid expansion waiver until the first week of September. It plans to submit it for federal approval September 15, the public will also have a chance to comment on the federal government's response. A former University of Montana football player who is serving a 10-year prison sentence for raping an acquaintance in 2010 has been moved to the state's boot camp program.

      KECI-TV reports (http://bit.ly/1J4ErT3 ) Wednesday's move was part of an agreement the state Board of Pardons and Parole made with Beau Donaldson after his first parole hearing in May.      The parole board denied his request for parole, but recommended him for the 100-day boot camp program. If he is successful, he can go to a four-month aftercare program in Billings and return to the parole board to request a parole plan.  The board noted he had successfully completed sexual offender and substance abuse treatment programs at the Montana State Prison.      Donaldson was sentenced in 2013 to 30 years in prison with 20 suspended.  

“That language was not in this waiver application,” Wittich said, “and I want to make sure that CMS has that so that there isn't a misunderstanding down the road when the state wants to enforce it.”

Democratic Representative Pat Noonan, who's also on the committee said this is Montana's opportunity to prove that low income people want opportunities to work, and not just free health care.

Duane Preshinger, with Montana's Department of Health and Human Services told a special oversight committee today that getting the expansion right is going to take time.

“This is not going to be a perfect rollout,” he said. “We're not going to hit the ground on January first and be, wow, there's no issues with this.”

The state is taking public comments on its Medicaid expansion waiver until the first week of September. It plans to submit it for federal approval September 15, the public will also have a chance to comment on the federal government's response.

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