Despite MT Senate, Obamacare Expansion Dead

Aaron Flint posted on April 23, 2013 07:38 :: 1159 Views

The Obamacare Medicaid expansion appears to be dead in the Montana State Legislature, after one vote blocked an amended version from making the bill to the House floor (more on that comical story below).  

As for the handful of Republican state senators who teamed up with Democrats to pass that amended Obamacare Medicaid expansion, here’s what former GOP Congressman and gubernatorial candidate Rick Hill had to say on his Facebook page toward the end of last week:

The Montana Senate passed a highly amended version of HB623 today authorizing full Medicaid expansion in Montana. The bill imposes more than $40,000,000 in new taxes. It now goes back to the House where legislators will have to decide whether to accept the Senate amendments and these new taxes. It is startling to think that the legislature with a surplus of more than $450,000,000 would fail to pass any meaningful permanent tax cuts and at the same time pass this huge new tax increase. Some of the Senators who voted for these amendments are now saying they didn’t know the huge tax increases were in the bill. I thought legislators were supposed to read bills and amendments before they vote on them. Maybe we need to impose a new reading test as a qualification to run for the legislature. Pathetic!

He later added in this conversation with former Rep. Tom McGillvray (R-Billings): 

Tom, it’s hard to believe, but the legislative legal counsel advised that the amendments did not fit the bill title, the rules committee confirmed that ruling, and the Senate voted to over rule both. Then after passing the amendments Senators say they didn’t know the bill included $40,000,000 in new taxes. I am astounded at the neglect to process, precedent and decorum. It is harmful to the integrity of the process. No wonder people have lost faith in government.

The apparent death of the expansion bill came in the wake of Senator Max Baucus’ (D-MT) remarks calling Obamacare a “train wreck.”  Liberal columnist George Ochenski took Baucus to task in his weekly column, pointing out that Baucus engineered the health care “train wreck.”  He also added another point that hasn’t been brought up in the midst of all of the national coverage. 

From The Missoulian: 

What’s less obvious is why Max is puzzled about it since, after all, he was the primary sponsor of the bill. But the law, which is more than 2,000 pages long, was actually authored by Liz Fowler, formerly his top Senate staffer on health care who came to that position after serving as Vice President of Public Policy and External Affairs at WellPoint, a multi-billion dollar health insurance corporation. That explains why the measure mandates that all Americans buy health insurance or pay a penalty to the IRS, which is easily the most odious part of the law. But it’s a huge boon to the insurance industry and would force as many as 32 million citizens to purchase health insurance – with or without government assistance.

What’s even more puzzling is why Baucus would criticize the implementation of the law when Fowler left his Senate staff, went through yet another D.C. revolving door, and was hired by the Obama administration specifically to implement the law as the deputy director of the Office of Consumer Information and Oversight at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Apparently Fowler, who had no problem writing a bill to massively enrich the health insurance industry, somehow can’t figure out how to spin that simple and inescapable truth to the public who must now live under that mandate.

Mike Dennison in The Billings Gazette: Medicaid Expansion is Dead

Medicaid expansion: Unless something extraordinary happens, this issue is dead. On Friday, House Republican leadership, by a single vote, kept the Medicaid expansion bill in a House committee bound to kill it. Sixty votes in the Republican-controlled House are needed to revive the bill – an amount Democrats haven’t been able to muster all session.

That single vote just happened to be a Democrat, State Rep. Tom Jacobson (D-Great Falls), to which The Western Word noted:

Readers may remember that I have written about Jacobson before. He was a candidate for State House District 25 taking on incumbent Cleve Loney. Jacobson beat Loney by 74 votes out of the 5,068 votes cast. A complaint was filed by his opponent (Cleve Loney) because Jacobson was “passing out chips, candy, and water to people who were waiting in line to vote at the Expo Park in Great Falls (MT).”

The complaint by Loney was dismissed by the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices because, apparently, all is fair at the polls in Great Falls.

 All of this comes as Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT), who didn’t even campaign in support of the expansion, invested lots of political capital in attempting to get the expansion passed at the legislature.    

The talk of expansion even dominated Gov. Bullock’s speech to Democrats in the Flathead, as The Daily Inter Lake reports:

What Bullock claimed he saw upon taking over the post, however, was what he called a “wholesale attack” on public education, public employees, women’s rights and reproductive freedom.

But what he is pursuing with the bulk of his political strength is an expansion of Medicaid.  Bullock read nearly verbatim a statement he gave earlier that day at a press conference in Helena on the subject.  That statement came after a measure touse federal funds to help the working poor buy insurance was defeated in procedural votes in the House.

As for the “alternative” expansion proposal that is on the table- instead of taking more of your taxpayer dollars and giving it to Medicaid, this proposal takes more of your dollars and basically gives it to the insurance companies.  But, as the AP reports, even that proposal isn’t assured the approval of the federal government:    

The Obama administration hasn’t signed off on the Arkansas deal, and it’s unclear how many other states will use it as a model. But it reflects a pragmatic streak in American politics that’s still the exception in the polarized health care debate.

So far, 20 mostly blue states, plus the District of Columbia, have accepted the expansion.

Thirteen GOP-led states have declined. They say Medicaid already is too costly, and they don’t trust Washington to keep its promise of generous funding for the expansion, which would mainly help low-income adults with no children at home.

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