Gov. Bullock Says Medicaid Expansion Good For Montana Businesses

Jan 8, 2019

Medicaid expansion saves Montana businesses a lot of money, Gov. Steve Bullock said Tuesday. He made that point as the state legislative session opens, because if state lawmakers don’t vote to reauthorize it, Medicaid expansion will expire in June.

Bullock released a new report today saying Medicaid expansion provided health insurance to 16 percent of Montana’s private sector workforce in 2016 and 2017.

“I think that it’s time that we finally fully recognize that the value of Medicaid expansion is as much for Montana businesses as it is for the Montanans receiving healthcare.”

The governor says Medicaid expansion gives employers the benefit of having a healthier workforce enter their insurance pool. It can save them the expense of providing health coverage or paying a federal tax penalty. Businesses with 50 or more employees which don’t provide health insurance must pay the penalty.

A map of Montana's 56 counties and the percentage of businesses in each county with employees on Montana Medicaid.
Credit Nick Mott / MTPR

Tuesday’s report says Montana employers avoid between $11 million and nearly $17 million in tax penalties because their lower-income workers can join the expansion program.

Bullock, and the Democratic minority of both chambers of the Legislature, are pushing for public support for the program as some Republican leaders are calling for big changes.

“We will be reviewing that throughout the legislative session and making sure what’s in place, and see if we can improve it, and continue it for the most needy in the state of Montana,” says new Republican House Speaker Greg Hertz.

Policy leaders on both sides of the aisle believe Medicaid expansion has enough support to be reauthorized, although some Republicans have questioned if it should continue at all.

Many Republicans want recipients of expanded Medicaid to be required to work, or for eligibility to be based not just on income, but also a person’s assets, to make sure people aren’t abusing the system.

Although Bullock said Tuesday he’s willing to hear any ideas to make the system more effective he questioned if adding new policies like those would be worth the administrative costs to the state.

The report from the Bullock administration says most of Montana’s Medicaid population is working.

So far no bills related to Medicaid expansion have been introduced.