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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Analysts: State Can Afford Medicaid Expansion

Legislative analysts estimate Montana would have to spend nearly $59 million more over two years to continue its Medicaid expansion program.

But those costs of providing health insurance for about 95,000 people could be covered by expected state revenue.

The Legislative Finance Committee today heard the report on Gov. Steve Bullock's budget proposal, which includes continuing the Medicaid expansion program, also known as the HELP Act.

“You can see there are positive and negative impacts of the HELP Act,” says Amy Carlson of the Legislative Fiscal Division.

That means positive and negative impacts on the state budget.

Carlson says that while Medicaid expansion does cost the state additional money, it also saves the state money. In part through the more favorable federal matching funds Montana gets through the HELP Act.

“Well you get a better match rate on those individuals in the HELP Act expansion as opposed to traditional Medicaid,” Carlson says.

Legislative analysts estimate the better match rate will save Montana $57 million, and that the state will collect another $11 million in premiums from recipients of expanded Medicaid.

That’s less than then the anticipated $126 million the state will need to cover HELP Act benefits and administration. But the report by the Legislative Fiscal Division says Montana should have a revenue surplus through 2021, even with Medicaid expansion.

The HELP ACT is set to end next July unless state lawmakers vote to reauthorize it. There is bi-partisan support to do so, but Republican lawmakers who favor keeping Medicaid expansion say it will need reforms, like requiring recipients to work.

Corin Cates-Carney manages MTPR’s daily and long-term news projects. After spending more than five years living and reporting across Western and Central Montana, he became news director in early 2020.
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