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MT House gives final approval to bill continuing Medicaid expansion in Montana

Posted: 12:37 PM, Mar 30, 2019
Updated: 2019-03-30 16:28:24-04

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.

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.