Montana Republicans and Democrats compromised in the 2019 Legislature to pass Medicaid expansion with the caveats that there would be some work and community service requirements, however the federal government has not yet authorized the provision.

Now, the Montana State Senate Majority Leader is crying foul.

“When we passed that legislation it was up to the current administration to apply for the waiver to allow a work requirement that implements the law that we passed,” said State Senate Majority Leader Fred Thomas. “While other states have applied for the waiver and their laws are now in effect, the current administration in Montana is applying for the waiver in a way that the federal government is not going to approve, and I’m sure they applied in such a way that would make sure it didn’t happen.”

Thomas said the recipients for whom Medicaid was originally intended have an established method of qualification.

“People that are on regular Medicaid, that have it coming, the disabled, handicapped, low-income seniors and pregnant women, we verify their income and we don’t have a work requirement for obvious reasons, so this is not rocket science,” he said. “The AP article stated that not only is it being delayed, but once it’s approved it will take over a year to write the software to get this implemented. It’s just a delay tactic.”

Thomas said by the time the next legislative session rolls around in 2021, he hopes there is a Republican in the State House in Helena.

“It’s likely that this will not come together until we have a Republican administration in the governor’s office,” he said. “We have a state that’s genuinely Republican by a small margin, so when you toss in a liberal Democrat governor which we’ve had for the last 16 years, first with Governor Schweitzer and now with Governor Bullock and then a conservative legislature, then all you have is deadlock.”

Thomas said the compromise worked out between state Republicans and Democrats was reasonable for both sides.

“If we’re going to have Medicaid expansion, that’s one thing, but let’s have it with a work requirement that makes sense,” he said. “Let’s have it with an income verification that makes sense. I mean, my God, we verify that someone who is disabled or handicapped, we verify their income, but the Democrats didn’t want to verify the incomes of the expanded Medicaid population and that’s the kind of deadlock that doesn’t make any sense,”

Governor Bullock has term-limited out and there are three Republicans vying for their party’s nomination, Attorney General Tim Fox, U.S. Representative Greg Gianforte along with State Senator and Dr. Al Olszewski.


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