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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Capitol briefs: Medicaid abortion rule blocked; Missing persons task force funding advances

Montana Capitol dome
Ellis Juhlin
Montana Capitol dome

Abortion providers sue state over Medicaid coverage restrictions
Shaylee Ragar | Montana Public Radio

A district court judge has granted a temporary block on a state rule that restricts Medicaid coverage of abortion, maintaining current coverage of the procedure while a lawsuit plays out.

Montana’s three abortion providers sued the state health department and asked Lewis and Clark District Court to stop the rule before access to abortion is restricted.

The rule adds new requirements for patients seeking state-funded Medicaid coverage to terminate a pregnancy, like proof they have a physical illness that would be “significantly aggravated” by pregnancy and prior authorization before a procedure. It also prohibits Medicaid coverage for abortions performed by nurse practitioners or physician assistants.

Federal Medicaid dollars cover abortion in cases of rape, incest or life endangerment. But a legal precedent in Montana requires the state to cover Medicaid patients’ abortions more broadly when “medically necessary.”

All Families Healthcare, Blue Mountain Clinic and Planned Parenthood of Montana say the rule will significantly restrict access to abortion for low-income Medicaid recipients. They also argue the rule violates Montana Supreme Court precedents that protect access to abortion.

The state health department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Missing Indigenous Persons Task Force funding bill passes the House
Ellis Juhlin | Montana Public Radio

A bill to extend funding for Montana’s Missing Indigenous Person’s Task Force has passed its final vote in the House. The legislation would renew the working group through 2033.

The bill has been a top priority for Montana’s American Indian Caucus to address the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous People in Montana.

According to data from Montana’s Department of Justice, Indigenous people make up over a fourth of the state’s missing persons, despite being only 7% of the population.

Democratic Representative Tyson Running Wolf, a member of the Blackfeet Nation is the bill’s sponsor. He originally requested $50,000 for funding the grant program that supports tribes’ work to identify, report and find missing Native Americans. That funding was reduced to $5,000 dollars in the Senate.

"If things are going and they use up all that funds then we'll fight for more funding for the next biennium to keep it rolling that way," Running wolf said.

Running Wolf said he accepted the cut in funding in order to get the bill over the finish line. But he hopes the Legislature can reevaluate that amount in the next biennium. The bill now goes to the governor’s desk.

Shaylee covers state government and politics for Montana Public Radio. Please share tips, questions and concerns at 406-539-1677 or  
Ellis Juhlin is MTPR's Rocky Mountain Front reporter. Ellis previously worked as a science reporter at Utah Public Radio and a reporter at Yellowstone Public Radio. She has a Master's Degree in Ecology from Utah State University. She's an average birder and wants you to keep your cat indoors. She has two dogs, one of which is afraid of birds.
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