HELENA, Mont. (NMB) – After a lengthy debate, the bill to continue Medicaid expansion in Montana failed to pass the Senate on a 25-to-25 vote Thursday.
Tim Pierce with the UM Legislative News Service reports, House Bill 658, would have continued the program passed in 2015 that provides health care coverage to about 96,000 Montanans. The new bill, which would add work requirements, forcing eligible enrollees to record 80 hours per month, is carried in the Senate by Republican Senator Jason Small from Busby.
“There’s never a one-size-fits-all-solution to any problem, but this is a good start. It’s going to help people go back to work. It’s going to make people healthy again. It’s going to get them off their addictions and able to once again function in society and they can become members of a healthy and productive workforce.”
Some opponents of the bill, like Republican Senate President Scott Sales, say the program spends too much federal money, suing about $700 million in federal funding every year.
“This isn’t a Republican problem, it’s not a Democrat problem, it’s our problem. We have to get back to the point where we live within our means to some degree. Just because the federal government is going to give us a bunch of quote-unquote free money that they’ve created of thin air, doesn’t mean in the long run, this is going to be a good deal for anybody.”
Lawmakers did pass several amendments to the bill Thursday, including one that added a 2025 expiration date to the program. Since the bill failed its initial vote, all amendments added during the debate also died.
Last month, the House passed the bill 61-to-37. It is expected to come back before the Senate this week.