Medicaid Expansion Bill Blasted to Floor - KFBB.com News, Sports and Weather

Medicaid Expansion Bill Blasted to Floor

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HELENA -

The House voted to blast a medicaid expansion bill out of committee and to the floor for debate Wednesday.

Senate bill 405 would accept federal funds to expand medicaid to low income Montanans, but require them to pay premiums and co-payments as well.

You could call it a bit of a victory for supporters of the "Montana HELP Act," but lawmakers had to clear a few hurdles before they could get the bill out of committee and on to the floor.

In the house rules committee meeting, Minority Leader Chuck Hunter criticized Representative Art Wittich for taking executive action on the bill immediately after the hearing.

"Really for the sole purposed of preventing us from having any opportunity to use our ability under 40-92. pure and simple," Rep. Hunter said. "It was an attempt to cut the legs out from the dealer."

After hours of debate on procedural rules in the committee and on the house floor, the house voted to allow the bill to be blasted out of committee.

"In the spirit of having to accept something that works for both sides of the aisle, I will accept it," Rep. Hunter said. "I think we ought to have it here and we ought to have good debates to have it voted up or down on the floor."

And yet, even though Speaker Austin Knudsen and House leadership urged party members to resist any motions allowing the bill to move forward, the blast motion passed. 

That is---because 11 Republicans voted with all 41 democrats. 

"No, we weren't surprised,"Speaker Knudsen said. "We had a pretty good idea of where the vote count was."

According to Speaker Knudsen, there aren't many options left to prevent the bill from progressing any further.

"At this point if the votes stay the same that bill will pass," Knudsen said, "It's obviously a bill that we as a republican leadership are opposed to."

Senate bill 405, having been blasted to the floor, will have a  second reading and debate on Thursday.

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