Eye on Healthcare

Feb 19, 2014 7:25 PM by Sanjay Talwani - MTN News

Language for Medicaid expansion ballot measure approved

HELENA - A ballot initiative to expand Medicaid in Montana has a green light from the Montana Department of Justice, with a department spokesman saying that revised language on the measure was approved.

Kim Abbott, co-director of the Montana Human Rights Network - and the initiative's sponsor - said advocates could start gathering signatures within a few weeks, after the form for the petitions is finalized with the office of the Montana Secretary of State.

Supporters will need more than 24,000 signatures from around the state to get the question on the November ballot.

If approved, the legislature would still have to approve the spending of federal funds, estimated by a legislative fiscal note at $300 million in the first seven months.

The approval of the language came on the second try for sponsors of the measure. The original version would have taken effect upon passage, allowing the first enrollees under the new expanded criteria to join Medicaid as early as late November or December.

The new version, if passed, will take effect at the start of the following fiscal year - on July 1, 2015.

Supporters say Medicaid expansion, a key component of Obamacare, could expand health care access to 70,000 Montanans using mostly federal funds.

Opponents of the measure say it would bring new costs to the state and tit hat fails to address current problems with Medicaid including fraud, cost controls and quality of care.

Medicaid expansion was narrowly rejected in the Republican-led 2013 Legislature.

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