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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Health Department Reschedules Public Meetings On Medicaid Work Requirements

More than 40 people came to the DPHHS hearing on Medicaid cuts Feb. 1, 2018 in Helena.
Corin Cates-Carney
More than 40 people came to the DPHHS hearing on Medicaid cuts Feb. 1, 2018 in Helena.

Montana’s Medicaid expansion now covers more than 92,000 people. Its future was in question earlier this year when state lawmakers debated whether to continue it, and if so, how.

Conservative lawmakers campaigned to scrap expansion altogether. More moderate Republicans pushed for adding work requirements for enrollees — something not allowed under the Obama administration but OK'd by President Trump.

Democrats resisted adding work requirements, but the party’s bill to re-authorize expansion with few major changes died quickly in the Montana’s Republican-majority Legislature.

In the end, Democrats unanimously supported the moderate Republican bill to continue Medicaid expansion, which included work requirements.

Gov. Steve Bullock signed the bill in a ceremony in early May.

"Our state and our people our better off, better off because of Medicaid expansion," Bullock said.

The new expansion law will require an estimated 8,000 enrollees to do either 80 hours per month of work or what it calls community engagement. That requirement covers far fewer people than some Republicans wanted. Conservative leaders in the GOP call the new work requirements weak.

But before the state can implement the work requirements, it needs formal approval from the federal government, which pays over 90 percent of Medicaid expansion costs.

The Montana health department is taking public comments on the work requirements now through August 15. But it announced Wednesday that it’s pushing back scheduled public hearings on the requirements at the request of the federal government.

Instead of taking place next week, those hearing are now scheduled for July 31 in Billings and August 1 in Helena.

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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