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Montana 2021 Legislature

Lawmakers Seek to To Find Fraud in Welfare Programs

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Montana Public Affairs Network
Montana Republican Sen. Cary Smith provides remarks on Senate Bill 100 during a Senate Finance and Claims Committee hearing on Feb. 25, 2021.

Montana lawmakers are considering an increase to state efforts to root out fraud in welfare programs. The latest analysis shows the policy could save the state up to $2.3 million while dropping more than 1,700 people from Medicaid and other programs.

Republican Sen. Cary Smith of Billings said Senate Bill 100 would expand the verification process to determine eligibility for aid programs like Medicaid, potentially through third-party vendors.

“Eligibility for the programs, we’re not making the clients jump through a whole bunch of hoops,” Smith said.

Under SB 100, recipient eligibility for certain welfare programs would be checked twice per year instead of every 12 months under the current system.

SJ Howell with Montana Women Vote said similar programs in other states have resulted in lost coverage not because recipients weren’t eligible, but because they couldn’t verify eligibility.

“Perhaps for a reason as simple as they’ve moved and didn’t get important verification paperwork through the mail,” Howell said.

Analysis of the policy done by legislative staff says the bill would result in lost coverage for more than 1,500 Medicaid recipients and more than 270 Child Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, members. Meanwhile, the analysis estimates the increased verification process would result in 50 more fraud cases being referred to the state Department of Justice each year.

The analysis says the bill would save the state between $1.4 and $2.3 million each of the next four years.