The public has an opportunity to comment on changes to Medicaid expansion that allow Montana to implement work requirements for recipients.
The Montana Legislature agreed this session to allow expansion to continue, but followed states such as Arkansas and Indiana by requiring enrollees to do 80 hours per month of work or community engagement.
That includes approved activities like workforce training, vocational education or volunteering.
The state says the new rule will affect about 8,000 recipients, with about half potentially losing coverage.
But Heather O'Loughlin, co-director of the Montana Budget and Policy Center, notes that's just an estimate.
"We do anticipate that we would see some loss of coverage,” she states. “Precisely how much and who? We don't know at this point until the requirements are fully implemented."
Medicaid expansion, which went into effect in 2016, covers about 96,000 Montanans.
In 2018, the Trump administration allowed states to apply for waivers to implement work requirements. The public can submit comments on this to the state Department of Public Health and Human Services through Aug. 21.
Public hearings on the waiver are scheduled for July 31 in Billings and Aug. 1 in Helena.
Medicaid expansion was hanging in the balance at the beginning of this legislative session and would have ended on June 30 if lawmakers hadn't acted.
While Democrats and Republicans initially disagreed on work requirements, O'Loughlin says a bipartisan group of lawmakers eventually made expansion the main priority.
"A lot of folks said throughout the legislative session, 'This is important to continue Medicaid expansion,’” she relates. “’We have some concerns about these changes, but our hope is that we can mitigate as much harm as possible so that those who truly need health coverage right now are not going to face a loss of coverage.'"
O'Loughlin says it could take six months to a year for the federal government to approve the waiver allowing implementation of work requirements.
MBPC is a nonprofit organization focused on providing credible and timely research and analysis on budget, tax, and economic issues that impact low- and moderate-income Montana families.