Feds approve Montana's Medicaid expansion plan

Montana has become the 30th state to expand its Medicaid program since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act--though some worry about the implications of concessions from the Obama administration that paved the way for the deal.

The state's plan expands Medicaid coverage for 70,000 low-income individuals, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Monday.

Among both opponents and supporters of Medicaid expansion, the 30-state mark is considered to be a critical tipping point, possibly paving the way for others to fall in line, according to the Wall Street Journal. But while Utah may be the most likely of the remaining states to expand the program, notes The Hill, though Republicans in the state are struggling to work out a compromise on the issue.

HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell expressed optimism that Montana would not be the last state to heed President Barack Obama's call to expand Medicaid. "The administration looks forward to working with other states to expand Medicaid by designing programs that meet state's needs while providing needed services to residents and significant economic benefits to states," she said in the announcement.

Some had viewed the plan with skepticism because it requires Medicaid beneficiaries to pay premiums of as much as 2 percent of their incomes, when typically premiums are not permitted in the Medicaid program. Ron Pollack, the head of Families USA, echoed that sentiment once the plan was approved, telling the WSJ: "We don't want premiums to become part of the standard Medicaid expansions."

Yet such alternative approaches have won favor with some states hesitant to expand Medicaid. In fact, flexible ACA provisions such as the State Innovation Waivers have the potential to revamp the concept of health insurance premium assistance, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

To learn more:
- here's the HHS announcement
- read the WSJ article
- check out The Hill's report

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