Another Obamacare Win: Red State Montana House Passes Medicaid Expansion


Montana’s Republican-controlled House voted Thursday, 54-46, to approve federal subsidies for Medicaid expansion. Although Democrats are outnumbered 59-41 in the Montana House, a unified Democratic caucus joined forces with 13 Republicans who defected from their party’s leadership, to push Senate Bill 405 through the House chamber. The bill would expand Medicaid coverage to between 27,000 and 46,000 low-income Montanans who earn less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

All 41 House Democrats approved the Medicaid expansion. Republicans opposed it 46-13, but the 13 defectors were enough to tip the balance to pass the measure. House Republican leaders tried to kill the bill, but they were unable to keep their party unified in opposition. One defector, Rep. Geraldine Custer (R-Forsyth) argued in defense of the bill, noting that its main beneficiaries would be the working poor. Custer stated:

They (the working poor) are not people who are lying on the couch, waiting for a handout. Why should they be penalized and not able to afford health care?…This bill is a Montana solution for the Montana people who are too rich for (current) Medicaid but too poor for (help from) the Affordable Care Act.

Another Republican proponent, Rob Cook, who represents the rural community of Conrad, urged fellow Republicans to support the measure. Cook implored his colleagues:

I think this is the right thing to do, it’s the right time to do it. Let’s pass this bill.

A dozen Republicans listened and did just that.

The bill, as amended by the House is expected to pass the State Senate, and be sent to the desk of Montana’s Democratic Governor Steve Bullock. While Bullock has not yet identified whether or not he will sign the bill, his top health adviser has testified in favor of SB 405 in legislative committee hearings, so supporters of Medicaid expansion have good reason to be optimistic.

Medicaid expansion is a common sense idea that brings affordable health care to the working poor who live paycheck to paycheck to make ends meet and have little left over to cover the costs of health care. The Montana plan would lock premiums in at two percent of the recipient’s income. It is the kind of common sense, compassionate approach to health care that the Republican Party leadership has rejected in state after state.

Yet, in several states, including Montana, a small number of Republicans have defected from the toxic ideology of the Tea Party leadership. By joining Democrats in putting their constituents ahead of anti-government party orthodoxy, 13 Montana Republicans may have just helped tens of thousands of residents qualify for affordable health care under Medicaid expansion. In a state as red as Montana, that is no small accomplishment.

14 Replies to “Another Obamacare Win: Red State Montana House Passes Medicaid Expansion”

    That should be made an example of.
    “This is how to Govern…Together!

    Like TWO strong wings of an Airplane…
    Let’s get this baby soaring ahead!
    More people would want to vote for that kind of Can-Do Party!

  2. This is extra sweet because of the way Montanans literally jeered representatives of koch-funded Americans for Prosperity at local meetings.

  3. While I’m happy to hear Montana is doing the right thing by accepting the Medicaid expansion this *duh* moment shouldn’t be cause for celebration.

    Republicans have been so consumed in their hatred of President Obama they’ve shown they’ll do anything no matter how much it hurts their constituents if there’s even a 0.0001 chance it may sideline the POTUS.

    Many states with GOP controlled governments have shown they’d rather say no to accepting any government money that’s been assigned to their state if they believe it will make any part of Obama’s presidency become less successful. Even if doing so only means the money once earmarked for their state will simply be given to another state that’s willing to accept the provisions from a program that’s been enacted during the tenure of Obama’s presidency.

    A state that decides to stop cutting of their nose despite their face is no cause for celebration. Montana should have done this right from the start.

  4. I’m glad to see a few republicans willing to take a stand for the well being of the people of their state. It’s about fricking time.

    The republican party has not acted in a bipartisan fashion ever since the people of America voted Obama into office. Poor losers is too nice a word vor their treasonous behavior.

  5. Those living in Mt. Or have family and friends who live there should ask them to thank these brave and responsible republicans via their government offices.

    We know the right wingers will punish them mercilessly, as they do so well.

  6. This is GREAT for Montana. Now if only the BACKWARD North Carolina legislature would join them. Estimates are as high as 500,000 would gain healthcare in my state.

  7. Florida’s skeletor has refused the expansion. Now not only do the people of florida not have a chance for some health care, they have a $1B, that right B$, hole in their budget.

  8. Having lived and worked in Forsyth, I am amply surprised that someone from there would have anything positive to contribute towards the working poor.

  9. In twenty years when the ACA is polling above 60% approval much like Medicare and SS Republicans will claim they fixed it, and claim it was their idea to begin with.

    Great news for the hard working citizens of Montana.

  10. I don’t live in Montana, but thank you to the Republicans who put humanity before Koch politics. A shining example of working together to benefit all.

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