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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Bill to fund reimbursement of Montana Medicaid providers passes House

Medicaid logo.

After a study found the state underpays Montana Medicaid providers by tens of millions of dollars, lawmakers have advanced a proposal to fully fund the gap.

Lawmakers in the Montana House endorsed a bill from Democratic Rep. Mary Caferro from Helena that would fully fund the gap and beyond to account for inflation.

Caferro said she’s optimistic about the bill advancing after it cleared the House floor on a 65-35 vote.

“The question is, do we continue to put our heads in the sand and ignore the tragedy and the suffering that people are going through?” Caferro said, “And what you saw was bipartisan support for our friends and neighbors back home.”

Medicaid providers who offer disability services, mental health care, long-term care and nursing homes say the state will lose services if the identified gap in rates is not fully funded.

Caferro’s bill is one of two plans for increasing Medicaid rates advancing in the Legislature. The other, from a subcommittee of lawmakers focused on the state’s health department budget, would increase rates to more than 90% of the identified gap.

The House Appropriations Committee will have to decide which plan to move forward with – a committee known for its heightened scrutiny of spending bills.

Rep. Llew Jones, chair of the appropriations committee, said Caferro’s bill will get a fair hearing and that it's important to look at her bill within the broader context of the state’s budget.

“We’ll take a look at all factors to ensure our nursing homes and our providers are treated respectfully across Montana,” Jones said. “We’re also going to ensure that as we’re doing all of this that our education system, our road system – everything is fair.”

Bills that spend or tax must advance from one chamber to the other before April 3 to survive. Lawmakers will be on break from the session through Wednesday.

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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