The House Human Services committee borrowed the old Supreme Court chamber for a hearing on Medicaid expansion that drew an overflow crowd and is expected to run into the evening.
Supporters of House Bill 249 get to testify first, and for more than two hours they’ve told their stories of being uninsured because they make too much for conventional Medicaid and not enough for federally-subsidized coverage.
Stephanie Wallace, a mom and head start teacher from Troy, was typical.
"When I tried to get coverage for my husband and I through the marketplace I was stunned that even though both of our daughters are on HMK and we often qualify for food stamps, we weren’t eligible," Wallace testified.
“HMK” is Healthy Montana Kids, the privately-run program that is the model for the expanded healthcare network the governor wants to establish with federal Medicaid money.
Opponents of Medicaid expansion fear it could balloon out of control and threaten other state services, such as schools and infrastructure, even though the governor’s bill cuts off the program if federal funding stops.
Committees typically wait several days after a hearing before taking action, but Chairman Art Wittich says Human Services might vote on the Medicaid expansion bill at the end of today’s hearing.