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How Montana’s gubernatorial candidates view Medicaid expansion

A stethoscope with the cord in the shape of a dollar sign.
A stethoscope with the cord in the shape of a dollar sign.

Montana lawmakers in 2025 will have to decide whether or not to reauthorize Medicaid expansion — the health coverage for low-income adults. Montana’s next governor could have the final say given the executive power of the veto pen.

Here’s where the gubernatorial candidates stand:

Incumbent Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte says he supports it.

“We need a safety net for people who can’t take care of themselves,” Gianforte said.

But that support comes with a caveat. Gianforte says able-bodied adults should be required to work while receiving coverage – he excludes people with disabilities and caretakers from that.

Gianforte’s primary challenger, Republican Tanner Smith from Lakeside, says he does not support Medicaid expansion, and would veto it if it came across his desk.

“We don’t want to have a system of health insurance where you’re getting your health insurance from the state. That’s a communist, marxist idea,” Smith said.

Democrat Ryan Busse supports reauthorizing Medicaid expansion. He says work requirements are unnecessary.

The Montana Department of Labor and Industry reported in 2020 that 95% of expansion recipients were working, had disabilities, acted as caretakers or were in school.

Busse says he believes he can find support across the aisle to get Medicaid expansion reauthorized.

“I really do think there are good, decent Republicans in the Legislature. I think they feel like they have to go along with this radicalized cadre of people and this governor, just because their party is doing it,” Busse said.

Copyright 2024 Montana Public Radio

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