HELENA – A small group of Republican senators is working on a plan that would help poor, uninsured Montanans buy private health insurance at very little cost, starting next year.

Yet the plan would substitute for Medicaid expansion in Montana, rather than augment it, said Sen. Alan Olson, R-Roundup, one of the group.

Olson said he’s not supporting Medicaid expansion, which would extend government-financed health coverage to some 70,000 low-income Montanans beginning in 2014.

Instead, the group is working on a proposal that would use state funds to help the poorest adults increase their income to 100 percent of the federal poverty level – at which point they would qualify for federal subsidies to help buy private insurance.

Olson said he’s not sure where the money would come from, but that the group, which includes himself and Sens. Ed Buttrey of Great Falls and Fred Thomas of Stevensville, is considering several options. It would not be federal funds, he said.

“What we’re trying to do is find a funding mechanism to go down to those below 100 percent of the federal poverty level and bring them up to that level, so they can go on the federal exchange (and buy insurance),” he said.

Under the Affordable Care Act, citizens earning from 100 percent to 400 percent of the federal poverty level can qualify for federal subsidies, if they buy private health insurance on federal “exchanges,” which are Internet marketplaces.

Those below 100 percent of federal poverty level income – $19,500 for a family of three or $11,500 for a single person – are not eligible for the subsidies. The ACA, as passed by Congress, was supposed to put those citizens on Medicaid.

But the 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the ACA made Medicaid expansion optional for states, leaving those below 100 percent of the federal poverty level in a sort of health insurance limbo – if their state didn’t expand Medicaid.

Olson said the group of senators is hoping to insert its proposal into a House bill that is coming to the Senate.

As for the Medicaid expansion bill that was endorsed by the Senate on Tuesday, Olson said he thinks Republican support was for only the bill’s reforms of the Medicaid system – and not the expansion.

Missoulian State Bureau reporter Mike Dennison can be reached at 1-800-525-4920 or by email at mike.dennison@lee.net.

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(4) comments


Now lets talk about bat stuff crazy here....we take state funds to raise people to 100 percent of poverty level so they can qualify for federal health care, but we cannot accept federal medicare money which would cover these people at no cost to the state for 3 years, and then only at 10% of cost. So we spend state funds to help people qualify for Obamacare but we cannot accept Medicare because it is part of Obamacare....OMG what kind of stupid are these Republicans anyway!

Then to top it all off, our Federal taxes will be going to fund Medicare for people in states that accept, while the STUPID republicans keep us from getting any of our tax money back in the form of thousands of jobs and benefits for many tens of thousands of uninsured people in Montana. Its no wonder our surplus is now gone with stupid people like this in charge. Spend state money to avoid getting federal money... that is unbelievably STUPID.

I simply cannot fathom the ill considered position of the republican legislators on this. How in the world can you put forth a position like this and not get laughed at? How can you put forth a position like this and face your constituents, but they must be as stupid as the legislators if they elected them in the first place.

Can anyone show me the logic in the republicant position on this issue?


They are crazy but the only way they can continue to be but boys for the insurance industry which is the biggest racket going. It is why single payer is better and ditch the profit gouging insurance companies......that support the Republican Mr. Potter types proposing this idiocy.

Still Here

When you have the tin hat pulled down so hard, it keeps the blood from flowing to certain parts of your body it affects your common sense. It is tough being so worried about the bad boogey man all the time. They also have to look good in the eyes of their handlers like Grover Norquist, the Koch and Wilks brothers and the good people at ALEC.

open mind

You have to realize that Fred Thomas is a major player in Montana's insurance world. Also remember that Fred was directly responsible for the deregulation of Montana Power and is responsible for all of our power bills going up and our grandmas losing their pensions when Montana Power's stock, one of the most safe and stable stocks ever, took a nose dive. (He probably is responsible for the state of the pension funds statewide, too)
How is this scheme, to raise incomes to 100%, not welfare at it's most basic definition? Blame Bitterroot voters for voting Fred back in. I don't know what it would take to get them to see how stupid their political choices are.

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