HELENA — The bill to continue Medicaid expansion in Montana — one of the key measures before the 2019 Legislature — was revived in the state Senate Monday morning by the narrowest of votes, setting up another debate and vote to possible move the bill toward approval.
The Senate voted 26-24 to place House Bill 658 on the debate calendar later Monday, removing it from a legislative limbo where it had sat since Thursday. If HB658 doesn’t clear the Senate floor by Monday, it could face an insurmountable super-majority vote, because of legislative transmittal deadlines.
Medicaid expansion, a $700 million-a-year program that provides government-funded medical coverage to 96,000 low-income adults in Montana, is set to expire June 30 unless the Legislature votes to reauthorize it. HB658 would continue the program past that deadline and add some additional eligibility requirements for the three-year-old program.
The House approved the bill last month, but the Senate deadlocked on the measure last Thursday, 25-25, as several members said they’re holding the bill hostage until they’re assured the Legislature and Gov. Steve Bullock will accept a bill helping NorthWestern Energy buy part of the Colstrip 4 power plant and a related high-voltage power line.Senate Minority Leader Jon Sesso, D-Butte, tried on Friday and Saturday to revive the bill, but failed both times on 24-26 votes. Two of those “no” votes — Republican Sens. Bruce Gillespie of Ethridge and Russ Tempel of Chester — switched on Monday to favor HB658’s revival.