Democrats won their fight to bring a Medicaid expansion bill to the House floor for debate. It came with help from 11 Republicans Representatives.
Thursday's scheduled debate on Senate Bill 405 came after a protracted fight that’s been simmering all session long. It came to a head Tuesday when the House Human Services committee gave the bill a “do not pass” recommendation.
Democrats were expecting this move and were ready to counter with a rules fight.
But before Democrats could use their so-called “silver bullet” to blast the bill from committee with a simple majority vote, they had to clear a series of procedural roadblocks using the rules. Those were thrown up by Republicans who oppose Medicaid Expansion.
They were brushed aside by a coalition of Democrats and the 11 Republicans.
Finally near the end of the day’s business on the floor, House Minority Leader Chuck Hunter rose to offer his motion.
"Thank you Mr. Speaker. Pursuant to House rule 4090-2 I move to withdraw Senate Bill 405 from the Human Services Committee and to place the bill on second reading on the 71st legislative day."
Democrats and the 11 Republicans then had to fend other motions offered by other Republicans. They had tried unsuccessfully to move this vote to tomorrow and even adjourn for the day.
The measure seeks to extend Medicaid coverage to the working poor who don’t make enough money to buy insurance on the federal Marketplace but earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. The bill has been dubbed a compromise bill because it would require co-pays and premiums for participants. It would also offer participants assistance to either get a job or a better paying job.
Republican Representative Rob Cook will carry Senate Bill 405 on the House Floor. Cook has been a member of the group loosely branded the “Responsible Republicans” that emerged at the end of the 2013 session.
"What brought me around to this sort of action is the last six years of 'no' from the Republican party, and an unwillingness to work on a health care solution at all. And lost in the fight over the Affordable Care Act is the fact that the old system was broke too. And there was never any motion to refine the system, to try to find a solution to the costs of uncompensated care and bad debt."
Cook says Montana is already paying the federal government to expand Medicaid. This just brings Montana dollars back to the state.
Senate Bill 405 is now scheduled to be on Thursday’s second board to begin at 5:00 p.m.