House Human Services Committee tables HB676


    Rep. Jane Gillette's HB676 was tabled in the House Human Services Committee. (Provided by the Montana Legislature)

    After a 12-7 no vote Wednesday, the House Human Services Committee tabled a bill opponents said would hurt the ability of children and working families to access Medicaid and CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and hurt Native Americans.

    In a hearing one day earlier, opponents said House Bill 676 would push children off of CHIP, lead to early deaths of Native Americans on reservations, have a negative effect on Natives in urban areas, and make it harder for people on Medicaid to access health care. One opponent also noted the Montana economy would take a hit.

    Rep. Jane Gillette, R-Bozeman, sponsored the bill, and in committee Wednesday, she said those who have benefited from Medicaid expansion had the power to influence legislators, and the changes would have been a “bitter pill” for the health care industry to swallow.

    She earlier said Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana and the Montana Hospitals Association benefited from CHIP and Medicaid expansion. She said a yes vote was a vote to protect “the trough” the health care sector has become dependent on.

    Rep. Kathy Kelker, D-Billings, said she serves on a hospital board, sees the budget, and knows how thin the margins are. Kelker said hospitals must take patients who are on Medicaid, and Medicaid pays about half of the cost of services.

    “I think it’s unfair to say there’s been this big windfall,” she said.

    If there’s a windfall, she said it’s that people are getting preventative care.

    Representatives from the office of Gov. Greg Gianforte and the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services had testified in favor of the bill.

    The bill failed with the following representatives voting against it: Jessica Karjala, D-Billings; Kim Abbott, D-Helena; Alice Buckley, D-Bozeman; Sharon Greef, R-Florence; Tom Welch, R-Dillon; Mary Ann Dunwell, D-Helena; Ed Stafman, D-Bozeman; Gregory Frazer, R-Deer Lodge; Mallerie Stromswold, R-Billings; Danny Tenenbaum, D-Missoula; Kathy Kelker, D-Billings; Ed Buttrey, R-Great Falls.

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    Keila Szpaller
    Keila Szpaller is deputy editor of the Daily Montanan and covers education. In Montana since 1998, she loves hiking in Glacier National Park, wandering the grounds of the Archie Bray and sitting on her front porch with friends. Before joining States Newsroom Montana, she served as city editor of the Missoulian, the largest news outlet in western Montana. She worked there from 2006 to 2020. As a Missoulian reporter, she was named a co-fellow by the Education Writers Association to report on a series about economic mobility; grantee of the Society of Environmental Journalists for a project on conservation from the U.S. to Africa; and Kiplinger Fellow in Digital Media and Public Affairs Journalism. She previously worked at the Great Falls Tribune and Missoula Independent, and she earned her master’s in journalism from the University of Montana. She lives in Missoula with her husband, Brock, who is also her favorite chef, and her pup, Henry, who is her favorite adventure companion. She believes she deserves to wear the T-shirt with this saying: “World’s most mediocre runner.”