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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Lawmakers Hear Testimony On Republican Medicaid Bill

Rep. Nancy Ballance (R) HD87
Montana Legislature

Montana lawmakers took testimony Wednesday on the first of several bills designed to expand healthcare coverage in Montana without the full-scale Medicaid expansion Governor Steve Bullock is proposing.

Republican Nancy Ballance is sponsoring a plan to expand coverage for disabled people, parents, and veterans. But Ballance stressed her bill was not an alternative to Bullock’s Medicaid expansion proposal.

"So if it is your desire for full Medicaid expansion there is nothing in this bill that would not be compatible with full Medicaid expansion,” Ballance said.

Several of the witnesses who endorsed Ballance’s bill said they also supported full Medicaid expansion, as did most of the people who testified against the bill.

Jessica Hoff, the CEO of Southwest Montana Health Center, said Montana’s low-income people need more than Ballance is proposing.

“We see the efforts every day of people who lack medical insurance and consistent care. Because of this, in many instances, care is delivered in crisis, and when a person is the sickest and costs everyone the most money.”

Ballance estimates her plan will cost the state $15 million, although a fiscal report from the Governor’s office concluded the actual cost would be closer to $30 million. The House Human Services Committee will decide in the next few days whether to forward the bill to the House floor.

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