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Republican Amendment Would Fund Panel On Medicaid Abortion Reimbursements

Official 2021 headshot of Llew Jones
Montana Legislature
Rep. Llew Jones (R) - Conrad

Montana lawmakers have advanced a proposal to allocate money for the creation of a politically-appointed panel that would decide which patients can receive reimbursement from Medicaid for abortion care. 

The language adding money for the panel was tacked-onto the state’s $12 billion budget bill on a party line vote. Republicans supported the proposal, saying Montana is out of line with a federal rule that bars federal dollars from going to abortion services, except in cases of rape, incest and when the patient’s life is in danger. 

According to the National Women’s Law Center, Montana is one of several states in which legal precedent requires the state use its own money to provide Medicaid coverage of abortion care when medically necessary for low-income women. That’s broader than the federal rule.

Republican Rep. Llew Jones said there needs to be a review of the different rules at the federal and state level for when Medicaid can pay for abortions. 

"This has become nebulous and has raised concerns."

Democrats opposed the proposal, saying the new panel, made up of three politically-appointed physicians, would be able to arbitrarily decide which patients can get reimbursement for an abortion under Medicaid.

Democratic Rep. Mary Caferro of Helena said she’s also worried about the impact to sexual assault victims who would have to answer to the panel. 

“In order to provide this information, the family will have to go through another trauma,” Cafferro said.

In order for the panel to move forward, a separate policy establishing the group must be revived. It was rejected by lawmakers last week.
Copyright 2021 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Shaylee is a UM Journalism School student. She reports and helps produce Montana Evening News on MTPR.