- Associated Press - Saturday, March 16, 2019

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - The Latest on a hearing for two bills to continue the state’s Medicaid expansion program (all times local):

2:35 p.m.

Lawmakers are hearing public testimony on Republican Rep. Ed Buttrey’s bill to continue Montana’s Medicaid expansion program while including work requirements and adding some funding sources.

Buttrey says when he sponsored the Medicaid expansion bill in 2015, and still today, the goal was to get people healthy so they could work and eventually afford their own health insurance.

He says his bill improves on the current system by providing health care for people who need it while creating work or training responsibilities for able-bodied people who are covered and ensure taxpayer money is well managed.

Medical providers have said they support both bills.

Opponents said Saturday they were concerned that the work requirements would create reporting burdens that could result in tens of thousands of people losing their health care coverage.

12:15 p.m.

Montana lawmakers are hearing public testimony on two bills with different visions for continuing the state’s Medicaid expansion program.

Supporters told the House Human Services Committee on Saturday that the current program has saved lives and money with early detection of illnesses and management of chronic disease, has helped expand services offered at community health clinics and improved treatment for veterans, Native Americans and for people with mental health and addiction issues.

Opponents, including several Republican members of the House, argued the cost of the program is unsustainable and that taxpayers voted down an initiative to help pay for Medicaid expansion with an increased tobacco tax.

Supporters gathered for a rally at noon in the Rotunda in support of a bill by Democratic Rep. Mary Caferro.

9:15 a.m.

Montana lawmakers are hearing public testimony on two bills to continue the state’s Medicaid expansion program - the highest-profile issue facing the legislature this session.

A bill by Democratic Rep. Mary Caferro seeks to continue the program much as it has been since it began in 2016.

Republican Rep. Ed Buttrey wants to add work requirements for most able-bodied adults, expand an asset test and require religious corporations, such as Hutterite colonies, to pay the state’s cost of coverage for their members.

Both bills would include a fee on hospitals’ outpatient revenue in part to help pay the state’s share of the cost and in part to help leverage additional federal funding to increase Medicaid reimbursement rates. Buttrey’s bill also would tax certain health insurance premiums and premiums paid to the Montana State Fund for workers compensation insurance.

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