Back in 2010, after more than a year of cutthroat legislative maneuvering, Congress passed the Affordable Care Act. Part of that law was a provision to expand Medicaid coverage to households whose income was within 138% of the poverty level. Funding for this expansion would come entirely from the federal government until 2020, after which states would pick up 10% of the tab. In Montana, Medicaid expansion would insure 70,0000 people1 and bring $5 billion into the state over the next five years.
Two years ago, a bill to accept this federal money and insurance failed in the state Senate by one miscast vote. The Montana legislature meets every two years, so proponents of Medicaid expansion had time to organize before their next opportunity. Last Friday, dozens of supporters addressed the House Health and Human Services Committee for more than six hours, after which the committee voted “do not pass” on the Healthy Montana Act along party lines.
The bill will now require a 60-vote supermajority to reach the State House floor. Rep. Art Wittich (R–Belgrade) has used his chairmanship to ensure that a proposal from the Governor to comply with federal law—a proposal that enjoyed near-majority support in the last legislative session and has been endorsed by health care providers, bankers and politicians across the state—will not even be debated in the House. He must be very certain he’s right. I wrote about it in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent, which I urge you to read and then forward to him. The representative from Belgrade is active on Twitter at @ArtWittich. Drop him a respectful line and suggest that he reconsider his position. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links.