If you’re a lower or middle-income Montanan and you want access to affordable health care, under the Montana GOP plan, you’ll have to take some tests.
There’ll be an “asset test” — meaning if you have some rainy day savings in the bank or more than one drivable car or decide to sell the house you live in — you won’t qualify for expanded Medicaid. There’s also a drug test. Work requirements will be in place, too.
Fail the tests? No health care for you.
Republicans point to I-185’s defeat as a mandate from the people: “don’t keep expanded Medicaid.” Montanans missed an opportunity to fund Medicaid expansion but the $17 million disingenuous tobacco industry campaign derailed that. No mention of health care or tobacco in the anti-I-185 mailers, TV spots and billboards – it was “unconstitutional” and “an unfunded mandate.”
Medicaid expansion will sunset in July 2019, so it’s in the hands of the Montana Legislature now. It’s all the buzz and could be the most divisive issue of the 2019 session.
And a post at this very site by Missoula Sen. Dick Barrett puts numbers to the cost of NOT passing expanded Medicaid.
Gov. Bullock’s proposed budget provides for Medicaid expansion through similar sin taxes, like tobacco and alcohol, and on touristy things like rental cars and hotel rooms. Republicans vow to fight these taxes.
Great Falls Rep. Ed Buttery was in the Montana Senate in 2017 and helped pass Montana’s first Medicaid expansion. Recently, he was a vocal opponent of I-185 and here’s his excuse for not rallying around reasonable health care in the upcoming session:
“I think there are a lot of Republicans, whether they’ve signed tax pledges or not, are absolutely not going to have an appetite for any type of tax increase.”
For many Republicans, it’s as much about posturing for the 2020 governor’s race as it is for helping out lower-income Montana families. They want to look united and tough on taxes (even though, as Barrett points out, the economics behind kicking people off Medicaid are just plain stupid).
Republicans are worried about “fraud,” they say, though as one Democratic legislator who works in health care told me, there’s a .06 percent Medicaid fraud rate in Montana, one of the lowest in the nation.
Besides being just plain cruel, it’s a gamble for Republicans. A recent Associated Press poll had health care as the number one issue on Montanans’ minds when they voted in the midterm elections.
Maybe Republicans are counting on ten percent of the state’s population being too sick or injured, or dead, to make it to the polls.