When socialist-leaning Solutions Caucus Republicans crossed over to vote with Democrats for Medicaid Expansion in 2019, which the voters of Montana rejected in a 2018 ballot measure, they did so by reasoning that a work requirement justified their vote and would keep the able-bodied from abusing the system. However, the Montana Medicaid Expansion work requirement will likely now be overturned by the courts after a similar requirement passed in Arkansas was just overturned by a federal court in Washington D.C.
Called “community engagement rules,” the policy requires Medicaid recipients to put in 80 hours a month of “engagement,” which includes job-hunting, volunteering, or school. The rule was supposed to take effect on January 1, but it has been held up by state officials who are waiting to see if the federal government will approve of the stipulations.
We just found out they wouldn’t, as the federal court said the state couldn’t require work in exchange for the entitlement program.
Rep. Bill Mercer (Billings), said, “These Montana community engagement work requirements haven’t gone into effect yet, they haven’t been approved. Now that the court has set aside what was approved for Arkansas, I think our waiver request will be in that same bunch.”
The D.C. circuit court has jurisdiction over cases in Montana as well because that’s where the federal government is located.
Rep. Joel Krautter (Sidney) told the Richland County Central Committee that he voted contrary to the wishes of the county in 2018 (the county voted overwhelmingly to reject Medicaid Expansion in 2018) because the work requirement would help eliminate waste, a decision that now seems to regrettable.
Solutions Caucus Republicans lauded their vote on Medicaid Expansion because, they reasoned, the work stipulation created a distinction from the ballot initiative the year prior. Now, that distinction is gone and Medicaid Expansion will continue on without it.