Montana Public Radio

Legislature To Vote On Medicaid Work Requirements Amid Legal Uncertainty

Mar 28, 2019

As the Montana House prepares to vote on new requirements for Medicaid expansion enrollees a federal judge has ruled that similar plans in other states are unlawful. 

This week’s ruling from a U.S. District Court Judge in Washington D.C. blocks Kentucky from starting work requirements and stops Arkansas from continuing its program.

“Well, I think it confuses it here in Montana," says Fred Thomas, the Republican Senate majority leader.

Thomas says Republicans will look closely at the language in Montana’s House Bill 658 as it moves forward. He declined to say what kind of specific changes, if any, his party may make to the bill as a result of the federal ruling.

Thomas believes the federal judge’s ruling will eventually be overturned by a higher court, possibility the U.S. Supreme Court.

Conservatives in Montana campaigned on putting work requirements in place for so-called abled-bodied adults enrolled in Medicaid expansion in the lead up to the 2019 legislative session.

The federal judge’s ruling does not directly impact the legislation in Montana. But it could come into play if potential requirements in Montana are challenged in court.

House Bill 658 includes those requirements for certain people on the expansion. It has passed out of committee and will be debated in the coming days on the House floor, where Majority Leader Thomas expects it to pass.

Democrats are praising a late amendment to the bill that could protect the policy from being struck down entirely if a portion of it, like the new proposed requirements on Medicaid expansion enrollees, is found illegal.