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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Medicaid Expansion Compromise Clears Montana Senate

The Capitol dome in Helena, MT.
William Marcus
Montana Public Radio

Senator Ed Buttrey says he's pleased his bill to extend Medicaid coverage to the state's working poor won final approval in the Senate.

Senate Bill 405 is the last bill alive to provide this type coverage. The House essentially killed the governor's proposal by giving it an adverse committee report and Democrats were unable to muster enough votes from Republicans to bring House Bill 249 to the floor for debate.

In the meantime, House Republicans were unsuccessful with their alternative bills.

Sen. Ed Buttrey (R) SD13
Credit Montana Legislature
Sen. Ed Buttrey (R) SD13

Senator Ed Buttrey is hopeful his Senate Bill 405 will get a fair hearing in the House Committee and make it to the House floor for a debate.

He says the hurdle he and other supporters will have is to get the facts out about the bill to Representatives and overcome the fear being spread by opponents.

"It's all about the fear tactics from the folks that don't like it," Buttrey said. "It's the fear that we can't get off of it which of course we put the sunset on it. It's the fear that we would be turning people off of health care and that's absolutely not true, these folks that we're affecting now are already getting free health care. And we're just saying, 'hey we want to do this in a responsible manner through the front doorway of the hospital where it's much cheaper, get the preventative care and make it affordable for Montana.'"

The bill is aimed at covering Montanans who earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to buy insurance through the Affordable Care Act's Marketplace. Participants would have premiums and co-pays and they'll have to verify their income and assets. The bill also provides assistance to help participants either get a job or a better paying job.

Senate Bill 405 passed on a 28-to-21 third and final vote.

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