Posted: Jan 16, 2013 10:45 AM by Marnee Banks - MTN News
HELENA - Medicaid funding is one of the biggest budget items that Montana lawmakers are wrestling with this session.
The Medicaid system cost $1.9 billion in Montana during the most recent budget cycle, and there are currently just under 100,000 Montanans enrolled in the program.
The Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services anticipates 10% growth in the cost of Medicaid for the next two-year period, and that's without expanding coverage.
Governor Steve Bullock (D) is proposing to expand the program, making nearly 70,000 more Montanans eligible to receive Medicaid benefits.
"We can transform healthcare in Montana to ensure quality access and controlled costs. And I am hopeful I will have a willing partner with the Legislature to do so," Bullock recently said.
The governor has budgeted $5.2 million for Medicaid expansion over the next two years, and that's just the state's share, as the federal government will be picking up most of the tab.
However, Republicans who are working on the state budget point out that the federal government's funding phases out over time, and states are left paying the bill, so they are approaching the Medicaid budget conservatively.
"Not only do we have clients we have to serve, which is what we are trying to do. But we also have an obligation to the taxpayer to control costs. So this has to be a legitimate, balanced approach," MT State Representative Ron Ehli (R-Hamilton) explained.
Democrats on the Budget Committee say they support the expansion of Medicaid.
"We can't afford to not cover the uninsured. We must not lose this opportunity to do something about the skyrocketing costs of healthcare and health insurance and the health of our citizens," said MT State Senator Mary Caferro (D-Helena).
The current Medicaid funding is in House Bill 2, the main budget bill; the expansion of Medicaid is its own stand-alone bill.