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Bohlinger Calls for Medicaid Expansion
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate calling on governor to convene special session
HELENA — Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Bohlinger is calling on Gov. Steve Bullock to convene a special legislative session to expand Medicaid to another 70,000 residents, a proposal that was rejected by lawmakers earlier this year.

The former Republican lieutenant governor said Wednesday in a news conference that uninsured Montanans also should have the option to access state health clinics for public employees.

With 190,000 people in the state uninsured, and few Montanans so far able to sign up for health insurance through the new federal exchange website, Bohlinger offered to volunteer his assistance in expanding the Medicaid rolls.

"It's such an important issue and such a significant concern. I think it's a crisis today," Bohlinger said. "Sure, we can wait until 2015 when the Legislature assembles, and let them deal with the problem. But it's far too great an issue to just put it on the backburner and let it just cook."

Bullock supports Medicaid expansion, but the Democratic governor has said he doesn't plan to call a special session "any time soon" to expand Medicaid because Republican leaders oppose it.

"Mr. Bohlinger's a dedicated public servant, but I'm disappointed that rather than engaging in a serious discussion he's looking for an easy headline on a complicated issue. If he's serious about how to expand coverage for 70,000 working poor and create 13,000 new jobs, he'd pick up the phone and ask the governor how he could help," Bullock spokesman Kevin O'Brien said in a statement Wednesday.

Earlier this year, the Legislature rejected a similar proposal to expand Medicaid to include the working poor earning less than 138 percent of the poverty level.

Senate President Jeff Essmann, R-Billings, said the same result is likely if the Legislature meets again.

The nation's new health-care law and a Medicaid expansion would mean higher insurance premiums and higher taxes, he said.

"I think the more Obamacare rolls out, I think the more that the average Montanan and American is figuring out that the middle class is going to get stuck with a big bill for this," Essmann said.

Bohlinger also proposed allowing uninsured Montanans to buy into the state employee health plan and access state health clinics in Helena, Billings and Miles City, along with another planned for the Butte area.

Bohlinger said that would provide Montana consumers a fourth option in addition to the three insurers selling plans through the Montana exchange. He was unsure what it would cost residents or how long it would take to create that option.

Bohlinger, who was former Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer's lieutenant governor until January, faces John Walsh, Bullock's current lieutenant governor, in the 2014 Democratic primary in the campaign to succeed retiring U.S. Sen. Max Baucus.

Walsh's campaign did not have any comment on Bohlinger's proposals.
On 11-27-13, mooseberryinn commented....
Indeed, and what a shame they ignore the power grabs of the chairman.
Kellyn Brown
Kellyn Brown4h
Landslide slowly destroying part of Wyoming resort town http://t.co/ggvVuuJKTG
Dillon Tabish
Dillon Tabish19 Apr
KALISPELL, MT: You'll find the box in a brick building filled with history. Skateboards, pizza, clocks & ties #THTH14
Molly Priddy
Molly Priddy18 Apr
@natashavc @TaraAriano @allyzay Oh no, I've been thinking it's a room for all your types of mustards. Recalibrating my ideas now.
Tristan Scott
Tristan Scott19 Apr
@tristanscott *Billie Joe
Flathead Beacon
FB Headlines15h
Kalispell’s Core Area Redevelopment Plan Inches Forward http://t.co/EO2le2frPY