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*Updates* Medicaid Expansion Tabled In Committee

Today the Senate Public Health, Welfare and Safety Committee tabled Medicaid Expansion in Montana

Montana Medicaid Expansion Marches Forward

Medicaid Expansion Tabled In Committee

*Update – 4/5/19, late afternoon:  The Senate pulled this bill from the Senate Health & Safety committee and gave it to the Senate Finance & Claims Committee. It is now scheduled to be heard on Monday @ 8AM.

By Tim Ravndal

Today the Senate Public Health, Welfare and Safety Committee tabled HB658.  Republican Representative Edward Buttery, the sponsor of the bill made a passionate plea to the republican majority controlled committee to pass the legislation.

Representative Ed Buttery

Democratic Representative Mary Caferro who brought HB425 before the Montana House of Representatives also endorsed Medicaid Expansion in Montana.  HB425 failed to garner enough votes to make the transmittal deadline out of the House of Representatives to the Montana Senate.  Representative Caferro was at the Senate Committee hearing to fully support HB658.

HB658 garnered substantial support from the medical and insurance industries.  Hospital care organizations noted there is a high level of dependency on the Medicaid program here in Montana.  The fiscal note from legislative services is expansive and is not totally complete according to several legislators.

Representatives from multiple Sovereign Nations testified in favor of the bill stating suicide prevention and mental health needs on the reservations within the boundaries of Montana cannot be properly dealt without Medicaid Expansion.

The committee members were notified of a couple amendments to HB658 prior to the committee hearing.  The public in large have not seen or have heard about the amendments.

When HB658 was before the House of Representatives the Montana Chamber of Commerce supported the bill.  Today the representative of the Chamber of Commerce testified in opposition to the legislation.  It was stated that the legislation depends on a rate increase in work comp premiums.  One of the amendments to the bill purportedly removes the section where funds from the Workers Compensation Fund will be removed from the bill.  Montana Logging Association also opposed the bill based on the work comp funding mechanism built into the legislation.

Vice Chairman Senator Cary Smith walked through several concerns with the bill including fiscal accountability to the people of Montana.  His questions to the sponsor was made in all fairness looking for the truth behind the bill that is not clear to the people of Montana.

Senator Al Olszewski stated that because the citizens of Montana voted against Medicaid less than 6 months ago, he cannot support the bill.  He stated that his constituents from his Senate District overwhelmingly voted against Medicaid Expansion and it is is his representative duty to honor their Constitutional Rights.

The committee closed the hearing and took a short recess.  When they returned, the committee took executive action on 3 bills before the committee.  The last one was HB658 where the committee tabled the bill.

Many of those in support of the bill were unhappy that the committee ruled against the legislation.  The people of Montana could still face Medicaid Expansion due to the rule option for the full Senate to have a motion to “Blast” the bill out of committee for a second reading.


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