The bill to accept money from the federal government and thereby extend private health insurance to 70,000 working poor Montanans has been sent to state the Health Human Services Committee, where the GOP hardliners hope they can kill it.
If they should do so, however, we can expect to see the Medicaid expansion proposal (in true form, not the current GOP version, a compromise, which uses public funds as vouchers with which insurance may be bought from private insurance companies) on the ballot in 2014. As a ballot initiative, it is likely to pass with broad support.
A similar measure in fact was voted up in 2008, the Medicaid Children’s Health Insurance Program or “CHIP” expansion. It was approved by 70% of Montana voters. It was known as Initiative 155 (alternately Healthy Montana Kids) and gave federally funded insurance to an additional 30,000 kids.
This landslide mandate has a serious political implication: every single county and every single legislative district in Montana voted for the expansion, each by a strong margin. In fact numerous GOP legislators who will be voting on the current bill this week were elected with fewer votes in their district than were cast for the approval of the CHIP expansion, heavily conservative though their districts may be.
In fact lets take a closer look at how many votes the last Medicaid/CHIP expansion garnered, compared to how many votes the GOP members of the House Health and Human Services Committee received. (If you’d like to look up these stats for other legislators, click here to get the 2008 data from the Montana secretary of state.)
|2008 Election Results|
|GOP Legislator||Medicaid/CHIP Expansion|
|David Howard (R) HD 60||2635||3235|
|Cary Smith (R) HD 55||3118||3675|
|District of Kelly Flynn (R) HD 77 when Scott Sales ran||2644||2851|
|District of Bill Harris ( R ) HD 30 when Dave Kasten ran||2595||2551|
|Pat Ingraham (R) HD 13||3147||3273|
|District of Alan Redfield (R) HD 61 when Joel Boniek ran||3420||3410|
|Scott Reichner (R) HD 9||3666||3620|
|Gordon Vance (R) HD 67||3960||4542|
|District of Kirk Wagoner (R) HD 77 when Scott Mendenhall ran||3403||3560|
So a 2014 initiative could have electoral implications for those Republicans who vote down the current proposal. For if you vote against 6 billion dollars for your state, you are hardly representing your voters’ wishes. If you doubt me, just take a look at what happened to former legislator Bob Wagner of Madison County, when he voted against stimulus funds, on Tea Party principles, and was then trounced in the following election by a main street Republican for having done so. The money was needed by his district for local infrastructure projects.
Such may be the fate of those that vote against the Medicaid cash as we enter the final days of the 2013 legislature, as the issue will be prominent in 2014 and arise in editorial board meetings, candidate forums, and public discussion. A ballot initiative for Medicaid in 2014 (in the event this legislature fails to pass it) will hopefully serve two purposes: to resolve the issue, and to inform voters in certain GOP districts that their legislators are busy playing out their Tea Party fantasies, and not representing their districts.