It all comes down to Monday. After months of planning, weeks of legislative debate and wrangling, and days of drama while certain Montana legislators attempt to hold the health of Montanans hostage for the fossil fuel extraction industry, Monday is the last day the Senate can debate—and vote on—HB 658, which will extend the expansion of Medicaid in Montana.
The stakes couldn’t be higher: Medicaid expansion in Montana saves lives, boosts the economy, and helps small hospitals remain viable in increasingly challenging times. It’s a vital program that provides health insurance coverage for almost 100,000 of our friends and neighbors.
Despite the unquestionable benefits from the expansion, some Republicans in the Montana Senate refuse to simply vote for the measure, even though it was amended this session to have the increased work and reporting requirements they demanded. Some oppose it because they are ideologically opposed to the idea that the government should provide help to Montanans in poverty. Reaching out to those Senators will likely have no impact as they have long since decided that they’re unwilling to support even cost-effective programs to bring healthcare access to those who otherwise could not afford it.
Another group of Republican Senators, though, demand our attention, and we should make our voices heard loudly and clearly to this group of persuadable legislators. These five actually co-sponsored the Republican bill to expand Medicaid, but voted against it last week because they want guarantees about a massive giveaway to Northwestern Energy to “save Colstrip.”
You can call the switchboard at the Legislature at 406.444.4800 and leave a clear message for Senators Ankney, Hoven, Richmond, Tempel, and Welborn. Tell them that they owe it to their constituents and the state as a whole to protect Medicaid expansion.
If you can get to the Capitol tomorrow, attend the rally put on by Montana Women Vote at 11:00 a.m. to make your voice heard.
This is the final push. This is the moment to make the Montana Legislature understand not only that we must continue Medicaid expansion in Montana, but that we will hold those who failed our neighbors and communities accountable.
The other side is working the phones and e-mails, too. Senator Fred Thomas made it clear that Republicans are working to kill expansion even though they got what they wanted through the amendment process:
“…while we’re working our hearts to defeat this legislation (Medicaid expansion) …” “ …we’ll take that bill (Medicaid expansion) up … yet in the next couple of days, but we’re working to kill it even though we have these amendments in place. So, I need you to keep sending notes to individuals, emailing, calling, stressing the need to defeat that bill …”
Healthcare isn’t a game. It isn’t a pawn in partisan chess. For many Montanans, it’s a matter of life and death.
Let’s raise our voices as loud as the stakes are high.