The Obama administration says they have concerns about provisions in Montana's new law to expand Medicaid, but they are willing to work with the state to overcome them.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Ben Wakana said in a statement Friday as they consider Montana's proposal, the priority will be to make sure coverage is affordable and accessible. He says another priority will be ensuring the plan does not impose significant premiums on people with very low incomes.
Gov. Steve Bullock signed the Medicaid expansion bill into law Wednesday.

It would require people who enroll to pay health care premiums and copays. Enrollees also would be asked to participate in a workplace assessment survey. Because of those stipulations, the state must seek a waiver from the federal government to put the program in place.

The following statement was sent out by Ben Wakana, Spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services:

“We appreciate the Governor's ongoing leadership and are encouraged by Montana’s bipartisan support of Medicaid expansion that would provide coverage for 70,000 low-income Montanans. Medicaid expansion increases access to quality, affordable health care and reduces costs for hospitals, including costs that would otherwise be passed on to taxpayers. As we consider the state’s proposal, our priority will be to make sure that any waiver approval provides for coverage that is affordable and accessible for Montanans and does not impose significant cost-sharing or premiums on individuals with very low incomes. We look forward to working with the state to address these issues and arrive at an approvable waiver to extend coverage for low income Montanans."

According to an administration official the bill signed by Montana’s governor contains some provisions that raise concerns about their approvability for a waiver under the Medicaid statute, which CMS has communicated directly to the state.

  • Specifically, we are concerned that the state plans to assess premiums below 50% of the federal poverty level and proposes significant cost-sharing in addition to premiums.
  • CMS is committed to supporting state flexibility and working with states on solutions that are consistent with federal law, and our priority is ensuring affordability and access.
  • The first official step in this process is having the state develop a formal waiver proposal, which will be posted online for public comment. Once the state sends CMS a proposal we will work with the state to address these and other issues.