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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Last Surviving Medicaid Expansion Bill To Be Heard Wednesday

Medicaid logo.

The lone surviving bill seeking to expand Medicaid coverage to the working poor will have another hearing tomorrow at the Montana Legislature.

This action comes on the heels of the bill stalling last night in the Senate Public Health Committee.

Senate Bill 405 failed to get enough votes to make it out of the Senate Public Health Committee Monday evening. The 1-to-6 vote came after a series of amendments were attached to the bill.

Public Health Chair Fred Thomas said afterwards he would recommend the full Senate send the bill to the Finance and Claims Committee for consideration and that happened Tuesday afternoon.

Senator Ed Buttrey of Great Falls is the sponsor of Senate Bill 405.

"Because it was not passed out of Senate Public Health, this motion is the same as a blast motion; so the bill will go over to Senate Finance and Claims as it was originally drafted without the amendments that we discussed," Buttrey said.

The bill would expand Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act. It would cover adults earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

This bill would seek federal waivers so participants would have premiums and co-pays. It also has a component that provides assistance to help participants become employed or get a better job in the hopes they can earn enough money to get off of Medicaid.

Senator Llew Jones chairs Senate Finance and Claims Committee. He would like to narrow the focus of the hearing to just the fiscal implications of this bill dubbed the HELP Act.

"My goal in finance is if the policy has been discussed anywhere else is that I try to at least focus the discussion on the money, on the cost, on the fiscal note, on the long- and short-term fiscal impact will be," said Jones. "Like any committee while I can encourage the witnesses all to say that, the presenters to say that I sometimes have a tough time keeping the questions on that area. But we are the finance committee we will do everything in our power to talk about fiscal issues."

There was testimony on the policy components of this bill during the public hearing last Friday evening and during executive action Monday evening.

Senate Bill 405 is scheduled for a hearing at 5:00 p.m. Wednesday in Senate Finance.

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