Montana GOP working on alternative to Medicaid expansion

2013-04-12T05:15:00Z 2013-04-12T05:41:08Z Montana GOP working on alternative to Medicaid expansion

HELENA – Some legislative Republicans and others are scrambling to come up with an alternative to Medicaid expansion, instead using public funds to help uninsured, low-income Montanans buy private health insurance.

Yet with just 14 working days remaining until the Legislature is scheduled to adjourn, those working on the proposals say time is getting short.

“Each day that goes by makes it more likely that it won’t succeed, because of procedural problems,” said Sen. Dave Wanzenried, D-Missoula, a sponsor of a Medicaid-expansion bill.

The alternatives would be in place of Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock’s proposal to expand Medicaid to extend federally funded coverage to 70,000 low-income Montanans starting next year – a proposal that the Republican-controlled Legislature has resisted.

Jim Molloy, a top adviser to the governor, said Thursday the governor’s office has met with some legislators working on alternatives, and that Bullock “is willing to consider any proposals that will provide coverage for uninsured Montanans and do so in a way that begins to reform our health-care delivery system and puts Montana’s tax dollars to work creating good-paying jobs in our state.”

“The governor has made it clear that expanding access to health coverage for Montanans is the only sensible thing to do,” Molloy said.

One of the alternatives would use the federal Medicaid funds to help poor people buy private health insurance, starting in 2014.

But a House Republican leader also said Thursday that many members of his caucus, which has a 61-member majority, aren’t likely to agree to any proposal that uses taxpayer dollars to expand health coverage for the poor.

House Majority Leader Gordon Vance, R-Bozeman, said the money should come from another source, such as settlement funds from a pending merger of the state’s largest health insurer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana, and a health-insurance corporation in Illinois.

Nonetheless, several Senate Republicans and others are working on alternative proposals that would use taxpayer money to finance private health coverage for poor Montanans currently without insurance.


One plan is likely to be folded into House Bill 623, which will be heard Friday before the Senate Public Health committee.

Sen. Ed Buttrey, R-Great Falls, said money inserted into HB623 would fund grants for people earning less than 100 percent of the federal poverty level – $11,500 for a single person – to help them qualify to buy private health insurance on the new, federal health insurance exchange next year.

Those who buy insurance on the exchange, an Internet marketplace, get federal subsidies to help them pay for the coverage.

“At 100 percent of the poverty level, (insurance) on the exchange is almost free,” Buttrey said. “The subsidy almost pays for the entire cost.”

Buttrey said Wednesday he hasn’t settled yet on the source of the bill’s funding.

A second alternative would be inserted into Senate Bill 395, Wanzenried’s Medicaid-expansion bill that passed the Senate a week ago.

SB395 is scheduled for a hearing Monday in the House Human Services Committee, a Republican-controlled panel that blocked the governor’s Medicaid-expansion bill on March 27.

Wanzenried said the plan is to amend his bill so federal Medicaid funds would be used to help poor Montanans without coverage buy private health coverage, on the health insurance exchanges.

A similar plan has been proposed in Arkansas and federal health-care officials gave it preliminary approval, but the approval isn’t final.

“If it has the same effect of qualifying people to be on the exchange, and they get coverage, I’ll support it,” Wanzenried said.

However, the bills are rapidly approaching deadlines that require them to be amended and debated and approved by the floor of their respective chamber by next Thursday.

House Minority Leader Chuck Hunter, D-Helena – the sponsor of Bullock’s Medicaid proposal – said Thursday he still sees long odds for getting any sort of Medicaid-expansion proposal passed, but that it’s not impossible.

“I’d say the chance is better than zero,” he said. “I wouldn’t put it at 50-50, but I’d certainly put it at a higher percentage than I would have two weeks ago.”

Missoulian State Bureau reporter Charles S. Johnson can be reached at (406) 447-4066 or by email at

Copyright 2015 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(14) Comments

  1. madtaxpayer
    Report Abuse
    madtaxpayer - April 14, 2013 1:28 am
    SS396CHEV, huh, got yourself a classic car? I thought only the wealthy could afford a restored big block super sport muscle car. do YOU pay enough in taxes? you see, I don't own big toys, or an iphone, or an ATV or snow mobile. I happen to SAVE my money for my children and my retirement so I won't ever need the assistance of they state/feds. I refuse to be a leach of society. I am responsible. I have a huge problem helping the poor not only because it takes my money away from my children, but because the majority of the poor lie, cheat and steal they system. they do not deserve the help of taxpayers. and we just sit back and watch it happen and keep giving them more.

    how many people do you know who have had kids out of wedlock and will not get married because it will reduce the amount of benefits they receive from the state? I know of 3 just from work, and 2 outside of work. think of how many more in this country are doing the same thing. the abusers outweigh the non abusers. I will continue to fight to keep my money in my pockets for my family only.
  2. SS396CHEV
    Report Abuse
    SS396CHEV - April 12, 2013 5:50 pm
    Those who believe in the trickle down theory are the main problem with this Country. It's been tried it does not work.
  3. SS396CHEV
    Report Abuse
    SS396CHEV - April 12, 2013 5:40 pm
    The wealthy don't pay taxes so why do I have to? Ever heard of GE? Even Romney wouldn't show his taxes because he doesn't pay taxes. I don't want anything from the rich and greedy, but them to pay the same rate I pay. As long as they pay a lesser rate then I, I'm subsidizing them. NOT FAIR! So why do you have such a problem helping the poor and not the rich? When the rich pay the same tax rate as me, I might feel different, tell then stop the hate and look at what you have. Life could be worse.
  4. Dreamcatcher
    Report Abuse
    Dreamcatcher - April 12, 2013 4:28 pm
    Its seems like there are a variety of opinions here and some even address the topic. It doesn't matter whether you are a I've got mine type that could be out of a job tommorrow and wanting help for your family. What matters is that people needing assistance exist and mister I've got mine, when they go to the ER for otherwise simple help it cost a whole lot more. What seems to be lost on a lot of folks is that the cost is passed on to YOU. Now I know a few people that would like to build prisons for the poor or temporarily out of work but as that doesn't seem likely to happen you might want to consider a compassionate and cost effective program put forth by the feds for the states consideration
  5. madtaxpayer
    Report Abuse
    madtaxpayer - April 12, 2013 4:02 pm
    yes, I DO believe in the trickle down theory. tax the wealthy, they'll take away jobs. I know I would if I owned a business. I move it in a heartbeat if the gov. tried to unfairly tax me. I'm all for a flat tax, equality for all. everyone pays the same percentage. you got a problem with that?
  6. madtaxpayer
    Report Abuse
    madtaxpayer - April 12, 2013 4:01 pm
    huh? since when do the wealthy need our money? they pay more taxes than anyone else. Heck I aplaud them. I'd like to be just like them. more power to them. hey guy, if you want to be rich, no one is stopping you, go for it, you can be whatever you want in this country. but the wealthy don't owe you a dime. they provide jobs for you! welfare recipients do not provide jobs for anyone, they just leach off the wealthy.

    you are not entitled to the wealthy's money. jeeze. the audacity.
  7. SS396CHEV
    Report Abuse
    SS396CHEV - April 12, 2013 1:01 pm
    Stop welfare for the rich. I am tired of paying their way.
  8. SS396CHEV
    Report Abuse
    SS396CHEV - April 12, 2013 12:59 pm
    And you have no problem giving more tax breaks to the rich? Right? We need to stop welfare for the rich ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!
  9. SS396CHEV
    Report Abuse
    SS396CHEV - April 12, 2013 12:52 pm
    It's really kinda sad, but most people that need help vote Republican. I know peope on welfare that vote Republican. look around and you will see that the counties that lean Republican have way less jobs, but that is what they vote for so that is what thay get.
  10. Setay
    Report Abuse
    Setay - April 12, 2013 12:21 pm
    For a group of people who quote Bible verses to discriminate against LGBT, it's curious that they didn't seem to catch anything Jesus (kind of an important character in the book) talked about all the time. (i.e. take care of the sick and poor)
  11. madtaxpayer
    Report Abuse
    madtaxpayer - April 12, 2013 12:14 pm
    how about the poor people get a JOB!!! quit having kids they cannot afford!!! get off their lazy butts!!!! there is already welfare/medicaid/obamacare, how much more do you expect us to pay for them???? Why is it ok for these people to take from my family? why do you think it's ok for me and other taxpayers to work our butts off for others and not our own families? are you saying my family/children should not be supported by MY money? why do you think my family is not worthy of MY money????? please answer. you liberals never have an answer when we ask you why you think it's ok to take money away from our own families to give more and more to welfare families. ANSWER!!!
  12. madtaxpayer
    Report Abuse
    madtaxpayer - April 12, 2013 12:10 pm
    Thank you republican house for caring about those of us who work instead of those of use who do not. I want my hard earned money for MY children, not theirs! We already pay enough for medicaid/welfare! We will soon be paying for obamacare on top of welfare, when will it end?????

    I am tired of paying for all the lazy leaches of society. They need to start being taught how to be responsible instead of taking everyting they can from those of us who ARE responsible!!! go get em' republicans, STOP the liberals from stealing from the middle/upper class!!!!!
  13. Deanne
    Report Abuse
    Deanne - April 12, 2013 11:52 am
    MT GOP Read this-
  14. montanamuralist
    Report Abuse
    montanamuralist - April 11, 2013 9:14 pm
    Subsidize through PRIVATE insurance...sounds like their plan is to kill as many poor people as they can and keep them off the rolls that way. Really all they want..more for us and if they can't work for us for nothing...die!
Missoulian Civil Dialogue Policy

Civil Dialogue Policy for Commenting on

We provide this community forum for readers to exchange ideas and opinions on the news of the day. Passionate views, pointed criticism and critical thinking are welcome. Comments can only be submitted by registered users. By posting comments on our site, you are agreeing to the following terms:

Commentary and photos submitted to the Missoulian ( may be published or distributed in print, electronically or other forms. Opinions expressed in's comments reflect the opinions of the author, and are not necessarily the opinions of the Missoulian or its parent company. See the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy for more information.

Our guidelines prohibit the solicitation of products or services, the impersonation of another site user, threatening or harassing postings and the use of vulgar, abusive, obscene or sexually oriented language, defamatory or illegal material. You may not post content that degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability or other classification. It's fine to criticize ideas, but ad hominem attacks on other site users are prohibited. Users who violate those standards may lose their privileges on

You may not post copyrighted material from another publication. (Link to it instead, using a headline or very brief excerpt.)

No short policy such as this can spell out all possible instances of material or behavior that we might deem to be a violation of our publishing standards, and we reserve the right to remove any material posted to the site.

Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick

Vietnam Then and Now: Janet Zupan

Janet Zupan, daughter of a man who was a POW during the Vietnam War, recounts her memories of her father. 

Vietnam then and now: Karen Ryan

Vietnam then and now: Karen Ryan

Karen Ryan recounts her experiences in Operation Babylift.

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Kate Haake presents the latest news you need to know about today's headl…

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Rob Chaney presents the latest news you need to know about today's headl…

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Martin Kidston presents the latest news you need to know about today's h…

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Kate Haake presents the latest news you need to know about today's headl…

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Kim Briggeman presents the latest news you need to know about today's he…


Search our events calendar