A Montana state senator and professor of economics is calling foul on GOP Attorney General Tim Fox for obscuring the facts about an initiative that would cost the state billions and eliminate health care for 100,000 of the state’s poorest children.
The state lawmaker and PhD economist called Fox’s official explanation of the cost of a ballot measure to nullify the Affordable Care Act “entirely inadequate” and says it “grossly misstates the principal findings of the fiscal note on which it is based.”
Here’s what’s happening. State law allows Tim Fox to write “fiscal statements” for every proposed ballot initiative, and the public has the right to comment on these statements. In a public comment letter to the Attorney General and members of the Montana legislature, Sen. Barrett, a PhD economist, explains the impact of RWNJ TEA Party legislative candidate Matthew Monforton‘s proposed ballot initiative to nullify the Affordable Care Act.
The measure would make it illegal for the state of Montana to obey any part of this federal law. Sen. Barrett writes:
Due to non-compliance with the Affordable Care Act, the State would lose an estimated $4.76 billion in Federal revenue over a five year period, and without a significant increase in state taxes, would be forced to terminate its Medicaid Plan, Children’s Health Insurance Plan, and several other health programs due to noncompliance with the Affordable Care Act.
That’s right, besides some pretty obvious constitutional problems, Monforton’s ballot initiative would throw seniors and people with disabilities out of nursing homes–and strip 100,000 of the states poorest kids of health coverage.
Tim Fox has said this would save money. Sen. Barrett’s letter includes Tim Fox’s official analysis, which reads:
“The State would save an estimated $1.26 billion in state revenues over a five year period based on an assumption that the federal government would end the state’s Medicaid Plan, Children’s Health Insurance Plan, and several other health programs due to noncompliance with the Affordable Care Act.”
There is no mention of what the state is supposed to do to come up with the nearly $5 billion this initiative will cause the state to lose. Eliminating Montana’s existing Medicaid and Healthy Montana Kids programs, refusing billions in federal funds, obliterating one of the largest existing, current revenue streams for dozens of rural and community hospitals (employers)–all of this would do anything but save money. Rather, the proposal would mean be a massive loss of it, for families, the private sector, and the state of Montana alike.
Now let’s talk about what it would mean to eliminate Medicaid and Health Montana Kids.
Medicaid covers about 100,000 people in Montana. About 20 percent of them are blind or disabled, 7 percent are the elderly in nursing or assisted living homes–60 percent are children. In addition to these 60,000 kids another 25,000 kids get health care through the Healthy Montana Kids Plan, which the Monforton initiative would also eliminate.
As you know, these are people who are eligible under Montana’s existing Medicaid and Healthy Montana Kids programs, since the Montana legislature refused to accept federal funding to extend Medicaid eligibility to the working poor in 2013.
If you’re wondering what Tim Fox’s actions are saying to the 125,000 of the poorest Montana citizens who will be in trouble when the state’s Medicaid and Childrens’ Health Insurance programs are completely eliminated, this pretty much sums it up.
It’s also a little suspicious that Fox doesn’t post the actual fiscal note online. The fiscal note is what contains the information Fox is supposed to base his “fiscal statement” on. The legislature has to publicly post fiscal notes, Fox should too. If he has done so, I can’t find it. One wonders what it is he doesn’t want us to know.
You can read Sen. Barrett’s entire comment letter to the Attorney General below. But before you do, here is one more interesting item of note.
Seems the Montana Hospital Association, who were proponents of several Medicaid expansion bills last session, have some electoral plans in the works. At their last board meeting, members were presented with an analysis of voting records–how every legislator voted on the various Medicaid expansion bills during the last legislative session.
They also received a comprehensive briefing on allowable political and electoral activities for the 2014 election cycle. All this can be seen in the publicly posted minutes from the trade association’s last board meeting. The minutes also show that the hospital association is planning initial expenditures of about $1 million on 2014 races.
A look at the candidate filings so far also shows several GOP candidates will get primaries –not from the right, but from from the responsible, pro-mainstreet wing of the party. You can download the candidate filing list here.
Anyway, it looks like the TEA Party wing of the GOP is going to have a few fights on their hands, and probably won’t be able to spare the resources to help Matthew Monforton get the 24,000 signatures he needs in order to get this on the ballot.
Deputy Attorney General
Montana Department of Justice
Dear Mr. Bennion:
I am writing in response to your request for comments and suggested edits to the Attorney General’s proposed fiscal statement to accompany the Initiative Prohibiting Funding of the Affordable Care Act; your request was forwarded to me by Sen. Driscoll.
I have reviewed the fiscal note on which the statement is based, the relevant provision in the law requiring that a fiscal statement be produced (MCA 13-27-312 (3)), and the statement itself, which I understand reads “The State would save an estimated $1.26 billion in state revenues over a five year period based on an assumption that the federal government would end the state’s Medicaid Plan, Children’s Health Insurance Plan, and several other health programs due to noncompliance with the Affordable Care Act.”
I believe that as written the statement is entirely inadequate and grossly misstates the principal findings of the fiscal note on which it is based. I understand that reducing a 17 page fiscal note to 50 words is difficult, and that only certain findings in the fiscal note, presumably the most significant, can be included in the statement. That being the case, it is obvious that the loss to the state, between FY 2015 and FY 2019, of almost $4.8 billion in Federal Special Revenue, described in the fiscal note, is far and away the fiscal effect with the most severe and sweeping impacts on both state finances and programs.
Surely individuals signing a petition to put this initiative on the ballot and the voters, if the initiative makes it to the ballot, should be aware that approval of the initiative will reduce total state revenue from all sources by approximately one fifth, and that as a result of that loss of revenue, the state will not be able, short of an extremely large increase in state taxes, to afford existing health programs for low income Montanans, including Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Plan. Any wording of the statement that did not make these fiscal implications clear would, in my opinion, be inexcusably deceptive.
Accordingly, in response to your request for suggested edits, I would propose the following:
“Due to non-compliance with the Affordable Care Act, the State would lose an estimated $4.76 billion in Federal revenue over a five year period, and without a significant increase in state taxes, would be forced to terminate its Medicaid Plan, Children’s Health Insurance Plan, and several other health programs.”
Sen. Dick Barrett – District 47 – Montana State SenateHome: 219 Agnes, Missoula, MT 59801