HELENA – Gov. Steve Bullock on Wednesday unveiled more details about his plans to extend government health insurance to 70,000 low-income Montanans through expansion of Medicaid, and said the bill to enact it will be introduced soon.

Bullock said expanding Medicaid will improve health for thousands, reduce health care costs for all of Montana and create 5,000 jobs in its first year and many more in ensuing years.

“We need a Montana-made solution that will increase access to coverage and stabilize costs,” he said at a Capitol news conference. “This job-creating measure will expand access to quality care for nearly 70,000 more Montanans.“

Bullock said the bill to expand Medicaid, still in the drafting stages, will be carried by House Minority Leader Chuck Hunter, D-Helena.

“Many of my colleagues arrived here eight weeks ago, saying they were here to create jobs,” Hunter said. “I’m here today to say, this is that opportunity.”

Hunter said money from the Medicaid expansion will go to “every county in our state and make sure our rural health care providers can continue to survive” and will cut the cost of health care delivery for every Montanan.

Medicaid is the state-federal program that provides health coverage for the poor. Under the proposal, Medicaid coverage would be extended to all Montanans earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or $15,400 for a single person and $32,500 for a family of four.

The expansion, which would start in 2014, would be financed almost entirely by the federal government for three years. The Bullock administration has estimated it will bring $750 million of federal funds into the state the next two years.

Leaders of the Republican-controlled Legislature, which must approve the expansion, have said they oppose it.

House Speaker Mark Blasdel, R-Somers, said Wednesday that Bullock’s proposal will get a “fair hearing” before a House committee, whenever it’s finally introduced.

“We’ll be interested in hearing his ideas,” Blasdel said. “But obviously our party has a lot of concerns about the expansion. We still haven’t seen the bill.”

Republicans have said they don’t think it’s wise to rely so much on federal spending, when Congress is trying to find ways to reduce the national debt.

Bullock said in addition to expanding Medicaid, his proposal, dubbed Access Health Montana, will increase funding to assist Montana students to attend medical school in neighboring states, increase funding for physician residency programs in Montana, and encourage the use of something called “patient-centered medical homes,” which emphasize preventive care.

It also will include a “health trust account” that the Legislature would use to improve health care delivery and access, and increase the rates that Medicaid pays to health-care providers by 2 percent a year the next two years.

When asked how he’d counter arguments that the expansion is a risky venture of using federal money that may not be available in future years, Bullock noted that several Republican governors who opposed the federal health reform law are choosing to embrace the Medicaid expansion that’s part of it.

“I’m in pretty good company, at least,” he said. “If they’re trusting the federal government, then I certainly can.“

He also said he’s had many conversations with legislators, Democratic and Republican, about the expansion, and that he hopes they will talk to their constituents about the proposal when they go home for the mid-session break, starting Thursday.

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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(11) comments

tinlizzie
tinlizzie

If you really want to know why our health care system is such a mess, read the current issue of Time magazine by Stephen Brill - it is enough to make you sick (no pun intended) - and uncovers the powerful lobbying groups for the hospital associaiton, pharma industry, and nursing home owners. Healthcare should not be a for- profit industry. And mad taxpayer, I certainly hope you get some help to overcome your hatred of those you deam are beneath you.

Dreamcatcher
Dreamcatcher

Some of the reaction is predictable; name calling and unfounded allegations but please stop and think of the following. Some speak in terms of health care and socialism in the same breath as if it was a crime to expect something for our tax payments besides aircraft carriers that the Navy says they don't want (Sen Lotts idea of stimulus for Alabama when ACC twice turned down by Navy built anyway in Mobile). Please stop and think of who you speak of in disparging terms when you use what has become a slur of socialism. Our neighbors to the north Canada, all of our allies in Europe, Austrailia, those evil socialist or our dear friends that we support with no exemption Israel are all what you curse as socialist. When someone works all of their life to try to make a go of it and is constantly knocked down by hospital bills and or out of this world premiums and they pay taxes, they have a right to seek help no matter what you choose to call it. In this so called Christian nation that claims Jesus as their saviour, we really have no concept of compassion for our fellow man but rather the goal of how can I die with the most toys. I can't change your view but I can tell you that the rest of the world looks to us for help and is dumbfounded by our cold hearted treatment of each other

madtaxpayer
madtaxpayer

I guess it's time to just turn over our entire paychecks to pay for all who will not take care of themselves.

chaffincreek
chaffincreek

madtaxpayer, by the quality of your writing and the content of your thoughts it is clear that you don't make enough to worry too much about your paycheck. There is obviously not that much taken out and you are a beneficiary of the system that you condemn. Remember, every Montanan receives approximately $1.47 back for every dollar paid in to federal taxes.

walter12
walter12

Wait a minute! I thought that ObamaCare was suppose to take of all of this. What is going on here with the leftists? Do they want the madness called ObamaCare or do they want expanded Medicaid? Oh, they want both. They are out of their minds. Who and how is all this insanity going to be paid for? Only half of the state citizens pay any taxes now.

chaffincreek
chaffincreek

walter12, do you ever research anything before you shoot your mouth off. The expansion is part of the Affordable Care Act or ObamaCare as you wish to call it. Good gravy man, you really can’t be that stupid can you?

Greta
Greta

And the Federal Funds will completely dry up in three years and after that the states will have to pay 100% of the Medicaid expansion costs. Since when do we need "patient centered homes" and all the other drivel the administration is tryin to blackmail us with? And once they get all these goodies set up, then Montana taxpayers will have to pay for 30,000 more uninsured. Bad idea.

chaffincreek
chaffincreek

It probably wouldn’t hurt for you Greta, to do some very basic research on the subject. idiot state is obviously and angry person with an ax to grind and little to support his claims. And Dub can never get past quasi libertarian ideology that hardly ever hits the target.


“The federal government would pick up the tab for most of the Medicaid expansion when it is implemented in 2014, but states would be required to pay for 10 percent of it by 2020.” U.S News

“Medicaid is administered as a partnership jointly funded by the federal government and states, with the federal government contributing anywhere from 50 percent to 74 percent of expenses6 (overall federal share of all states’ Medicaid spending is 57 percent). The Medicaid expansion under the ACA has a much more generous federal match rate, starting at 100 percent in 2014 and gradually declining starting in 2017 until it reaches 90 percent for 2022 and beyond.”

http://www.cbpp.org/files/status-of-the-ACA-medicaid-expansion-after-supreme-court-ruling.pdf

Dreamcatcher
Dreamcatcher

What they don't know or don't care to admit is that ACA, not even in effect yet, is already driving the cost of health care down. New technology and protocols, along with more aggressive crackdowns on fraud are already yeilding savings. It must be really hard to look in the mirror and admit that you hate the president not because he's a better killer of terrorist than republicans, or that he can put out the fire the republicans started, or that he can start to harness soaring health care cost started well before his time but because he's a democrat and he's black. I say this because any OBJECTIVE treatment of ACA by CBO which is run by republicans as well shows ACA bending the cost curve. So he's doing a great job with what he has to work with. The only conclusion is that your objections are not rational but personal and most likely predjudical

idiot state
idiot state

Did your governor say how it would "reduce health care costs for all Montanans?" That's a new one.

Dub
Dub

Right, if you believe it will be terminated when the federal funds dry up, I have a bridge for sale. (Bullock thinking to himself) Hummmm, lets see, we have a budget surplus now, just how can I eliminate that?

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