Montana Public Radio

Montana Medicaid Expansion Bill Advances To Senate

Apr 1, 2019

The bill to continue Montana’s Medicaid expansion, and add work requirements for some recipients, cleared the state House Saturday, and will now be taken up by the Senate.

Leadership in the conservative majority opposes the bill by Great Falls Republican Ed Buttrey. But unanimous backing from Democrats and a block of Republicans gave it enough support to advance to the Senate.

House Bill 658 cleared the House of Representatives on a 61-37 vote.

Facing a deadline today for passage, the final House vote came in a rush. Minutes before the vote, House Speaker Greg Hertz told lawmakers that some of them had incorrect information about the potential cost of the program.

"Some of you may have the wrong fiscal note."

The fiscal note from Governor Steve Bullock’s budget office says continuing Medicaid expansion will be less expensive than first projected. That updated assessment came after significant amendments were made to the bill late last week.

Some Republicans said those changes left them unsure what they were voting on.

Democrats say that although Buttrey’s bill isn’t ideal, they see it as the only political option to continue the program that now provides health coverage to more than 96,000 people in the state.

The governor’s budget office says the latest revision of the bill will require more than 8,000 people enrolled in Medicaid expansion to either work or meet so-called community engagement requirements. They’ll also have to give the state proof that they’re doing so.

Bullock’s office estimates  that half of those people are expected to be disenrolled from health coverage for failing to meet those requirements or reporting them properly.

As of Sunday House Bill 658 has not yet been scheduled for its first hearing in the Senate.