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Maybe it was my catfishing trip with my buddy Wallace. Or maybe it was reading too many opinion editorials by my former Democrat legislative colleagues. At any rate, I was having one of those “night terror” dreams. I was flopping around in my bed like a catfish out of water. I was hearing the committee chair say we had just provided funding for 100,000 Montana citizens to buy a Cadillac! I raised my hand and said, “how can this be?” The chair said, “don’t worry, the feds will pay for it!” Just then, my wife starting shaking me, saying, “Wake up!”

Unfortunately, my dream is based in reality, and it is not just catfishing! You see, for years government has been adding regulations and mandates to health insurance policies that have made them incrementally more expensive so that now, millions of people cannot afford health insurance. Insurance mandates require insurance companies to cover dozens of items such as maternity care, mental-health care, alcohol and drug addiction treatment, unisex laws, contraceptives, numerous treatments and screenings, autism, preventive care, and the list goes on.

'Mandate choice' policies

In the Legislature, I proposed “mandate choice” policies. These policies would allow a single person or a couple that did not want maternity, or a host of other mandates they did not need, to choose affordable policies. Most folks I talked to thought this made sense. However, Governors Schweitzer and Bullock and left-leaning legislators have consistently worked against free-market reform bills, perpetuating the futility of expensive and unaffordable health insurance. The result of all the government mandates and regulations in health insurance has been the equivalent of forcing everyone to buy a Cadillac when some can only afford a Ford Focus. In the end, it’s the poor who have no car.

Government failures have led to unaffordable insurance and now laws that force everyone to buy Cadillac plans with borrowed money. Even more vexing is the current push in Montana to expand Medicaid with “free federal money” when a recent Oregon Medicaid study has found no evidence that Medicaid improves the heath of enrollees. (

Now the left is drooling over this “free money” like my coonhound over a baloney sandwich and are condemning Republicans for rejecting it. We have been told the money for Medicaid expansion will cost the state nothing. The feds will supply the cash. The governor and insurance commissioner Lindeen have said if we don’t take the money, other states will. The poor will be insured, people will get jobs, and hospital lobbyists and CEOs will love it (oh, wait, I guess they leave that part out).

No free money

However, there is no pool of rejected money to be redistributed to other states if we don’t take Medicaid expansion “free money”. In fact, 18 states have already rejected expansion, 12 more are considering rejecting it, and at least 25 have refused to set up exchanges to implement Obamacare. According to a recent Wall Street Journal opinion, if all 30 states considering rejecting Medicaid expansion do so, this would save $609 billion over the next 10 years. It may be the dozens of responsible state legislatures like Montana that save the federal government from their own ineptness to control runaway deficit spending. We are expecting free money from our broke, in debt and on the ropes uncle that can’t even pass a budget. Good luck with that.

Medicaid and health and human services take over 35 percent of all state spending. Why rush to expand an arguably broken program leaking money like a torpedoed dingy to take up 40 percent, 50 percent or more of the state budget? We need to keep our eyes wide open before this nightmare becomes reality.

Republican Tom McGillvray of Billings served in the 2011 Legislature as House majority leader.