NewsMontana Legislature


UPDATE: Medicaid-expansion bill clears Senate vote

Posted at 12:28 PM, Apr 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-15 19:53:58-04

UPDATE 4:05 p.m. — By a single vote on Monday, the bill to continue Medicaid expansion in Montana was revived and endorsed by the state Senate, setting up a final vote that could advance the measure closer to passage.

The bill to continue the program that provides medical coverage for 96,000 low-income adults in Montana has been stalled in the Senate since last Thursday and faced a crucial deadline on Monday.

Without a positive vote Monday, House Bill 658 would have needed a super-majority to pass because of legislative transmittal rules and might have been dead.

But earlier in the day, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jon Sesso of Butte asked fellow senators to put the bill back on the floor and his motion passed by a 26-24 margin.

Some four hours later the full Senate endorsed the bill by the same margin setting up a final vote for its Senate passage on Tuesday.

Medicaid expansion is set to expire in June unless the Legislature re-authorizes it.

The bill also needs one more vote in the House, before heading to Governor Steve Bullock’s desk for his signature.

MTN News will have more coverage of Monday’s dramatic turn of events in this evening’s show.

HELENA – The bill to continue Medicaid expansion in Montana — one of the key measures before the 2019 Legislature — was revived in the state Senate Monday morning by the narrowest of votes, setting up another debate and vote to possible move the bill toward approval.

The Senate voted 26-24 to place House Bill 658 on the debate calendar later Monday, removing it from a legislative limbo where it had sat since Thursday.

If HB658 doesn’t clear the Senate floor by Monday, it could face an insurmountable super-majority vote, because of legislative transmittal deadlines.

Medicaid expansion, a $700 million-a-year program that provides government-funded medical coverage to 96,000 low-income adults in Montana, is set to expire June 30 unless the Legislature votes to reauthorize it.

HB658 would continue the program past that deadline and add some additional eligibility requirements for the three-year-old program.

The House approved the bill last month, but the Senate deadlocked on the measure last Thursday, 25-25, as several members said they’re holding the bill hostage until they’re assured the Legislature and Gov. Steve Bullock will accept a bill helping NorthWestern Energy buy part of the Colstrip 4 power plant and a related high-voltage power line.

Senate Minority Leader Jon Sesso (D-Butte) tried on Friday and Saturday to revive the bill, but failed both times on 24-26 votes. Two of those “no” votes — Republican Sens. Bruce Gillespie of Ethridge and Russ Tempel of Chester — switched on Monday to favor HB658’s revival.

-Mike Dennison reporting for MTN News