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MT House approves Medicaid expansion bill

Posted at 11:54 AM, Mar 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-01 16:51:04-04

HELENA — The Montana House Saturday gave its final approval to the bill continuing Medicaid expansion, which provides health coverage to 96,000 low-income adults in the state.

The House approved House Bill 658 on a 61-37 vote, sending it on to the Senate — where it’s expected to pass.

Support came from the same coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans who voted Friday to advance the measure to its final vote. Forty-one Democrats and 20 Republicans voted for the measure Saturday.

Medicaid expansion, which began in January 2016, expires this June unless the Legislature reauthorizes it. It offers government-funded health coverage to adults earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $17,200 a year for a single person. The federal government pays 90 percent of the $700 million-a-year program.

HB658, sponsored by Rep. Ed Buttrey, R-Great Falls, continues the program, but makes some changes, such as requiring some participants to log at least 80 hours of “community engagement,” which could be a job, job training, volunteer work, a full-time student, or a drug-treatment program.

The bill also includes several taxes to help finance the state share of the costs, including a 0.875 percent tax on Montana hospitals’ outpatient services. That tax generates $15 million a year for the state, but also generates another $100 million in federal matching funds for the hospitals, which they say is needed to help cover the cost of treating Medicaid patients.