Posted: Apr 16, 2013 8:29 PM by Marnee Banks - MTN News
Updated: Apr 16, 2013 8:30 PM
HELENA - The Montana House of Representatives' Human Services committee heard from the public on Monday about expanding Medicaid in Montana.
Senate Bill 395 is one of two bills which are still alive which could potentially reform government subsidized healthcare and provide coverage to 70,0000 more Montanans.
The bill has morphed since being introduced.
The bill's sponsor, Senator Dave Wanzenried (D-Missoula) is working with Senator Ed Buttrey (R-Great Falls) and Governor Steve Bullock (D) to come up with a compromise that Republicans might be able to stomach.
The proposed changes not only expand Medicaid, but they also allow the state to buy private health insurance for the new patients on the health insurance exchange.
Supporters of the bill lined up to tell the committee how critical access to healthcare is for so many Montanans.
Anna Marie Tschida said her son was working and going to school full time when he had unplanned medical expenses. She said he almost dropped out of school due to the financial strain of trying to pay the bills.
"Medicaid benefits are sometimes perceived as just one more giveaway, but my experience is that whether you are a high achieving college student or just a regular run of the mill adult affordable health care matters," Tschida testified. "Your vote matters."
Opponents to the bill also came to testify saying Medicaid expansion is far too costly. In total the bill will spend about $800 million in state and federal funds, with the state paying about $16 million of that this budget cycle.
Flathead County Resident Rita Hall says Montana can't afford that.
"Our government is basically broke. We are Montana. We are talking about spending federal funds. Uh, hello! I thought ours was a conservative state where we make do," Hall testified. "I mean, where is the gumption? This is wrong."
This bill has already cleared the Senate. Now it needs to pass out of the House Human Services committee which is controlled by Republicans who have been vocal opponents to Medicaid expansion.