Legislative update: Monday, Jan. 9

capitol-logoUncertainty on Medicaid

By Cole Grant

With all the uncertainty surrounding the federal Affordable Care Act, the future of Medicaid in Montana is shaping up to be a key topic this legislative session.

At an initial budget hearing Monday morning at the Capitol, Montana State Medicaid Director Mary Dalton gave lawmakers an overview, saying Medicaid’s goal is to ensure all eligible Montanans have vital care available within available funds.

“We always look for the way to spend the least amount of state general fund or state special revenue funds, and the most federal funds.”

In Montana, for every 35 cents the state receives, the federal government rounds it up to a full Medicaid dollar.

Dalton urged lawmakers to be cautious about cutting optional services, like physical or speech therapy, because, she says, “You are disproportionately affecting people that have disabilities.”

This session, lawmakers are facing a tight budget.

Cole Grant is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.

 

Bill looks at consumer-generated electricity

By Freddy Monares

A legislative committee is considering a bill that would require Montanans who produce their own energy to include advanced technologies that help utility companies manage that electricity.

NorthWestern Energy says Senate Bill 1 is moving in the right direction, but the company’s corporate counsel, John Alke, said “NorthWestern does not have the communications systems in place that could actually communicate with a smart meter like that.”

He said the company supports the bill conceptually, but would have to use a provision included in the bill to give the company time to integrate the appropriate technologies.

Bill sponsor Sen. Pat Connell, R-Hamilton said, “It’s in the best interest of all generators to recognize that there’s got to be central control of the distribution of electricity.”

The Energy and Telecommunications Committee will hear the bill Tuesday.

Freddy Monares is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.

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