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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Dueling Medicaid Expansion Proposals Now Before Legislature

Eric Whitney

Governor Steve Bullock introduced his Medicaid expansion plan this week; one of the most anticipated and potentially controversial bills of the 2015 legislative session.

It would accept federal funding to pay most of the estimated $870 million a year cost of extending Medicaid to about 70,000 more Montanans. Bullock said it was appropriate to introduce the bill on Martin Luther King day.

"A day to honor a man who once said, 'Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in the form of healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane.'"

Silver Bow Representative Pat Noonan is carrying Bullock's proposal. Republicans killed a similar measure in the 2013 legislature.

Statehouse Republicans are calling for reform of the current Medicaid system. A Republican Senate leader says his party is unlikely embrace Bullock's expansion plan.

Senator Fred Thomas of Stevensville says it goes too far by offering Medicaid benefits to anyone making less than about $16,000 a year. Thomas says his party has offered a compromise plan to expand Medicaid on a much smaller scale. He adds they're willing to negotiate with the governor. But Tuesday, Governor Bullock called the Republican plan “a deflection” and not a real proposal.

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