Montana may reconsider Medicaid expansion

April 29, 2013

Last week I reported on the mistake vote that appeared to have sunk Montana's efforts to move forward with a Medicaid expansion in 2014. One freshman legislator "pushed the wrong button" and, without his vote, the plan to expand Medicaid to 70,000 Montanans did not have enough support to move forward.

To remedy the consequences of that one mistaken vote, Gov. Steve Bullock (D) reportedly is weighing calling the legislature back for a special session to deal with the issue:

Advocates and Gov. Steve Bullock are considering their options after the Legislature killed the governor's bill to expand Medicaid to up to 70,000 Montanans who cannot afford to purchase health insurance.

Bullock hinted at calling the Legislature back into special session, but said Friday he'd first let the dust settle before deciding on a course of action.

Montana Human Rights Director Kim Abbott said her group and others are considering organizing a voter initiative to put expansion on the 2014 ballot.

Whether the plan would work is still an open question. Republican State Sen. Jason Priest told the Associated Press that he doesn't think there will be enough support for a Medicaid expansion. To his point, the Montana House rejected a vote to bring Medicaid expansion legislation to the floor when given the opportunity right after the mistaken vote.

Montana is a relatively small state; it's Medicaid expansion would cover 70,000 people, compared to a state like Florida, where 1.8 million would be expected to gain coverage. Still, the stakes are relatively high. Without a special session, the Montana legislature does not meet again until 2015. That's two more years until the state government could even consider the issue again—a pretty significant delay for implementing Obamacare in the state.

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Brad Plumer | April 29, 2013