Montana Medicaid Expansion (HELP) Act

July 29, 2015

As I’m sure most Montanans know, the Health and Economic Livelihood Partnership (HELP) Act was signed into law by Governor Steve Bullock on April 29, 2015. However, this is far from the end of the fight over Medicaid Expansion here in Montana.

This law contains certain provisions that conflict with Federal guidelines. The request for a waiver was presented for 60 days of public comment on July 7, 2015. Presumably sometime after September 7 it will be passed onto the Feds. Therein lies the potential difficulty.

My research has indicated that there is no set deadline or time period where the Feds are required to respond. Considering the fact that my opinion of this law as a conservative is not entirely unfavorable, I find it difficult to express confidence.

After thoroughly examining the language of this law, I guess you can say it is a good thing that my opinion is now mixed. This law does provide some modest accommodations to Conservative ideals. Most notably, the issue of dependency is addressed to an extent. Unfortunately, these accommodations will likely be the cause if the Feds reject our request.

The introduction of what has been referred to as a buy in policy, is already mentioned in the media as a likely point of objection when the Feds have their say. In fact to my knowledge, granted I have not allocated a great deal of time to research and verify, Montana is the first State to even propose this concept, or at least the first to take it as far as signing it into law. The idea of asking those who depend on the system to give anything back, even the tiny amount this law calls for is a pretty bold assertion, considering the well know ferocity of the opposing ideology.

Sadly, in the coming months I don’t expect the other provisions of this law that make a clear effort to offer additional services to propel our citizens up to, or back to prosperity will receive the same level of attention.

This law would have had no chance of both passing through our Republican legislature, and receiving the signature of our Democrat Governor if it didn’t incorporate some very significant compromises, and new solutions to some long standing points of contention.

There is no certain way to know how long it will take for the people of Montana to find out if the efforts of our lawmakers will be respected for what they are. One thing is certain however. Whether the Federal Government ultimately decides to respect our law and give us the waiver, or if it is denied and we have to try again. Informed Montanans on both sides now have yet another opportunity to acknowledge and embrace our unique identity as a people. A people who together in our differences compose the population of a Great State. A Great State that is an irreplaceable link in the chain that suspends the greatest nation the world has ever known in its rightful position above all others.

If our law is rejected, Montanans on both sides will find themselves standing shoulder to shoulder together. Our eyes will be focused on Washington with the same assertion, “how dare you…” If our law is supported, informed Montanans like myself, but on both sides, will have cause to tip their hats to the other. Neither side got everything they wanted, but we met the challenge presented to us.

Glenn W. Uncles Jr.

Helena, Montana


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