Medicaid Expansion Marches Forward in Montana
The people of Montana have been wondering how Medicaid Expansion (HB658) has made it in the Montana Legislature with so many unanswered questions. The primary sponsor of the bill is Republican Representative Edward Buttery from Great Falls Montana.
Representative Buttery serves on the board of directors of the Benefis Hospital in Great Falls. His association on the board has been questioned as a conflict of interest but no action has been moved against Mr. Buttery on the claim. The Hospital has been at the center of a “certificate of public advantage” (COPA) legal battle since 1996. Outside competition to provide health care in Great Falls has been systematically eliminated by the corporate actions.
Representative Buttery brought HB658 to the table one week after the people of Montana voted down I-185 back in November of 2018. About the same time according to the position of the Republican Party in Montana, Medicaid Expansion was was given a failing grade.
In March of this year HB658 was made available to the full legislature and the public.
The republican sponsored legislation has garnered additional republican sponsorship from Representatives Fred Anderson, Duane Ankney, Nancy Ballance, Geraldine Custer, Julie Dooling, Ross Fitzgerald, Steve Fitspatrick, Rodney Garcia, Frank Garner, Terry Gauthier, Bruce Grubbs, Ken Homlund, Brian Hoven, Llew Jones, Joshua Kassmier, Denley Loge, Wendy Mckamey, Fred Moore, Tom Richmond, Walt Sales, Dan Saloman, Ray Shaw, Jason Small, Russel Tempel, Jeff Welborn and Tom Welch.
HB658 beat out the democratic version of Medicaid Expansion in the House of Representatives brought forward by Representative Mary Caffero and Montana Governor Steve Bullock.
The bill failed to get support from the members of the Senate Health & Safety Committee and was tabled. This last Friday, Senator Jason Small made a motion from the floor of the full Senate to force the bill out of committee.
According to Senate President Senator Scott Sales, not a single member of the Senate objected to the motion made by Senator Small. Because there is no objection to the motion there is no vote called. Without an objection, all 50 Montana Senators through silence voted to advance the bill in the Senate.
Senators that pledged to vote against the legislation from the beginning remained silent on the motion.
The motion made was to bring the legislation before the Senate Finance and Claims Committee. The testimony on the bill before the finance and claims committee was limited to the fiscal note on the bill.
Republican Senator Bob Keenan brought forward legal and fiscal concerns. Senator Keenan is the sole member of the committee that brought forward a challenge to the legislation.
The Senate committee after hearing from supporters of the legislation closed the hearing and went straight to taking “Executive Action” on HB658.
Senator Olszewski brought forward a motion before the committee to amend the bill to remove the funding mechanism founded in the Workers Compensation Fund. Removing the revenue from the fund placed multiple funding questions back on the table.
The committee voted on the amended bill and narrowly passed HB658 with a 10 to 9 vote. Republican Senators Duane Ankney, Mike Cuffe, Dan Soloman all voted for Medicaid Expansion.
The legislation will now continue on the fast track and be scheduled for 2nd Reading before the full Senate. There the Senators of Montana will have another chance to follow the majority vote of the people against Medicaid Expansion in Montana.
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