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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Gov Bullock Launches Tour To Tout Medicaid Expansion

Governor Steve Bullock launched a statewide tour today to, in his words, "highlight the health and economic benefits of Medicaid" in Montana.

At Missoula’s Providence Hospital, Bullock cited a University of Montana economic analysis released last week that says the Medicaid expansion Montana launched in 2015 will pay for itself. It found that expansion offsets other state agency costs, and yields economic benefits that exceed state spending on Medicaid expansion.

"Now that we’ve had the opportunity to live with this program for a couple years, we’re seeing meaningful, meaning impacts to individual lives. We’re seeing meaningful impacts to preventative care, or substance use disorder. We’re seeing meaningful impact to our health care providers as well," Bullock said.

Gov. Steve Bullock. File photo.
Credit (PD)
Gov. Steve Bullock. File photo.

Next year state lawmakers will vote on whether to continue Medicaid expansion. It expires at the end of 2019 unless lawmakers re-authorize it.

Republican State Senator Ed Buttrey, who sponsored expansion in 2015, told MTPR in February that he would not vote to continue it in its present form. Buttrey says the Trump White House is likely to approve measures he wanted in 2015, but the Obama administration rejected – like requiring some Medicaid recipients to work.

Governor Bullock says he’s willing to negotiate Medicaid re-authorization, within reason.

"Always willing to sit down and talk with anybody, if what their goal is, is to actually make sure that we’re improving the system for the Montanans that receive health care, for the overall health care system, and for the economy, then I’m all ears. If it’s just trying to roll back the good work that we’ve done for no apparent reason, I’d be a little bit more skeptical."

Outside the Legislature, there’s a proposed ballot measure to raise tobacco taxes to help pay for and continue Medicaid expansion in Montana. Ballot language for that was approved by the Secretary of State Monday. Backers need to gather more than 25,000 signatures to get that initiative on the November ballot.

Eric Whitney is NPR's Mountain West/Great Plains Bureau Chief, and was the former news director for Montana Public Radio.
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