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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Third Medicaid Expansion Bill In The Works At The Montana Legislature

The bill to continue Montana’s Medicaid expansion will move to the state Senate for a vote.
Nick Mott
Montana Public Radio
Montana Legislature Senate Chamber.

A third proposal to continue Medicaid expansion past its June sunset is in the works in the Montana Legislature. Its Republican backer in the Senate says the state should look critically at the number of people enrolled in the program.

Big Fork Republican Bob Keenan says the state should not be proud that the health coverage program for low income adults covers roughly 1 in 10 Montanans."Are we really proud of the fact that we’re getting more and more people eligible for Medicaid expansion? I’m not trying to deny anybody health care or responsibility for work and getting themselves a hand up; but I hope that the result of what we do in a new re-issued Medicaid expansion program is help people get off Medicaid expansion."

The future of Medicaid expansion is one of the most significant issues facing the 2019 Legislature.

Democrats have introduced their own bill to keep expanded Medicaid going at status quo, with additional funding to what is currently a voluntary workforce training program.

A separate Republican bill currently in draft form in the House outlines possible requirements, including work requirements, for enrollees.

Related: Medicaid Expansion Grows Economy, Drives Employment

Sen. Keenan says having a workforce element to the program is important, but his plan doesn't focus on that. Keenan says his proposal will call for the state to increase the verification process on an enrollee’s economic and current state residency status. 

He says his plan will also include health risk assessments when people sign up for Medicaid expansion, as well as what he calls an, "individual health plan."

"So that members will have responsibilities to get their health in better shape," Keenan says. "The risk assessment and the health plan are really important."

Keenan’s proposal is not yet drafted, but he says it will also include another four-year sunset clause in the expansion, which would force lawmakers to re-evaluate the program in the coming years.

Keenan expects his proposal to likely get molded into the other GOP proposal carried by Representative Ed Buttrey.

Earlier this week, George Washington University released a study saying 45 percent of low-income adults could get dropped from the health coverage program if changes outlined in Buttrey’s bill draft are made law.

Related: Study: Work Requirements Could Push A Third Off Medicaid Expansion

Buttrey says his bill is still in the drafting process.

However, it’s expected to get its first hearing, along with the House Democrats proposal, in mid-March.

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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