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Bullock Opposes Attaching Workforce Requirements To Medicaid Expansion

Montana Govenor's office.
Nick Mott
Montana Public Radio
Montana Govenor's office.

Gov. Steve Bullock says he’s willing to consider all options for the future of Montana’s Medicaid expansion program as debate about it gets underway at the state Legislature. However Thursday, Bullock criticized the idea of adding workforce requirements, a proposal backed by Republicans.

A study from George Washington University released Tuesday found that between 33 and 45 percent of low-income adults could get dropped from Medicaid expansion coverage if changes outlined in a Republican draft bill are made law.

It’s unclear what the bill will exactly call for when formally introduced. But Republican leadership says adding workforce requirements are a top priority. Montana’s three-year-old Medicaid expansion program expires at the end of June unless lawmakers vote to reauthorize it.

During a meeting with the press Thursday, Bullock cited the new study and pushed back against adding work requirements and potentially higher premium costs on Medicaid expansion enrollees.

He says there is a lot of work ahead to continue the program past its upcoming sunset.

“I certainly want to take a look at all ideas out there. And not drawing any lines in the sand by any measure, but let's actually make sure we’re working together to improve it, not set it back.”

Montana’s program that extends health coverage to around 95,000 low-income adults in the state will expire at the end of June if not reauthorized by lawmakers.

The Republican Medicaid expansion bill has not yet been formally introduced in the Legislature.

Democrats introduced their bill last week. It generally maintains expansion as-is, but would increase funding for its voluntary component that helps enrollees build job skills and find work.

Last week, Rep. Casey Schreiner, the Democratic Minority Leader, was asked if the governor should sign a Medicaid expansion bill that included workforce requirements.

“We are not in support of that, period. So I would say no. I hope that we don’t end up in that circumstance, but we are not going to be in a position where we are going to support mandatory, bureaucratic, barriers to people being healthy.”

Gov. Bullock may be forced in the difficult position of having to choose whether to sign or veto a bill to continue the landmark health care program in a form that many members of his party may oppose.

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