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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Budget proposal would increase pay for Medicaid providers

Health care worker holding a clipboard.

Montana lawmakers have advanced budget recommendations to increase pay for providers of Medicaid services. The proposal falls short of what providers had hoped for.

The state’s budget is far from finalized, but the committee focused on spending on public health and human services voted Thursday to advance an initial plan.

A study found that the state doesn’t pay enough for Medicaid providers of mental health care, disability services, long-term care and nursing homes to break even. Providers say this has led to a massive workforce shortage and a reduction in services across the state.

Democratic Sen. Chris Pope from Bozeman brought a motion to fully fund the identified gap.

“Are we going to be part of the problem or are we going to be the solution? Because if we half do this, it’s like throwing a life raft to somebody 20 feet away and your rope is only 10 feet,” Pope said.

Republicans on the committee voted against fully funding the gap, but agreed to bump the rates. Their proposal would spend more than what Gov. Greg Gianforte requested in his budget, which was to fill about a third of the identified gap in rates, plus an additional one-time injection of cash. The governor says that would be a historic investment in provider rates.

Republican Sen. Carl Glimm of Kila is vice chair of the budget committee.

“Now we have built the building blocks to get to a point where this is going over and above the governor’s proposal,” Glimm said.

Republicans and Democrats also sparred over a separate increase in rates for providers. Republicans approved a 4% increase each of the next two years for other health care providers except hospitals. Democrats say they’re worried about the impact of that exclusion, especially for hospitals in rural communities.

Budget negotiations will continue in the coming weeks.

Shaylee covers state government and politics for Montana Public Radio. Please share tips, questions and concerns at 406-539-1677 or  
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