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Oversight Committee Still Sparring Over Medicaid Expansion In Montana

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Medicaid expansion is coming to Montana but some lawmakers are still debating it.

At a hearing of the oversight committee that's keeping tabs on the state’s effort to ramp-up its new health coverage, Bozeman Republican Tom Burnett — a House member who voted against the plan — stood up to say that state officials weren’t living up to the legislature’s goals.

“I consider that ... these many aspects of change have weakened the legislative intent, altered the legislative intent and I consider that to be a problem mister chairman.”

Great Falls Senator Ed Buttrey, who wrote the bill, didn’t directly answer Burnett’s criticism, but he praised the state’s effort to fulfill his vision for the program.

“The Department of Labor's on the right track to say our job is to help these people get jobs but to make sure that they can keep the jobs and successfully grow their income in their independence from government. But to do that, they got to be healthy and off addictions, and I'm happy to see that the state is progressing along these lines.”

The Montana Medicaid expansion, known as the HELP Act, is the only one in the nation to charge most users a premium, and provide an optional “employment assessment” program intended to help users find jobs. Enrollment began on November 1. The state says over 10,000 people have signed up, out of an estimated 70,000 who qualify.

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