Great Falls Tribune – June 23, 2017
Reaction was swift and strong Thursday in Montana over a health care bill proposed by U.S. Senate Republicans that critics said would cut and reshape Medicaid for the poor and ease rules on insurers.
“The latest health care bill is exactly what’s wrong with Washington, D.C.,” Gov. Steve Bullock said in a prepared statement. “Drafted in secret without bipartisan support or public input, this bill will threaten the health of hard-working Montana families in order to cut taxes for the wealthy.”
He said the bill is “hurting those who need it most.”
Democratic Sen. Jon Tester said the bill emerged from the shadows with no public input.
“It will rip away Medicaid from thousands of Montanans, impose an age tax on folks in their 50s and 60s, make it harder to get coverage if you have a pre-existing condition like high blood pressure, all while cutting taxes for corporations and the extremely wealthy,” he said.
He said the bill will leave thousands of Montanans without health care.
GOP leaders hope to vote on the bill next week.
Heather O’Loughlin, co-director of the Montana Budget and Policy Center, said the Senate bill is devastating and as widely unpopular as the House-passed bill.
“The bill will end Montana’s Medicaid expansion plan and cut assistance for average Montanans trying to access affordable health insurance, all to pay for massive tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans,” she said. “This bill could be life or death for many Montanans, as lower-income, rural, older, and sicker Montanans risk losing affordable coverage.”
But not all of the reaction was negative.|
“Today’s draft contains some positives, but we retain concerns over key provisions,” said Brent Mead of the Montana Policy Institute, a free market think tank.
“On the plus side, the proposed language starts to repair the economic damage of the Affordable Care Act,” Mead said. “Additionally, it grants states more flexibility in areas like innovation waivers.”
“However, the final language needs to go further in reducing actual health care costs for families and taxpayers and we hope the Senate can get to that point.”
A spokesman for Securities and Insurance Commissioner Matt Rosendale said he was still reviewing the proposal.
“It has some positive differences from the (American Health Care Act) AHCA that the House passed, but we’re also still waiting to hear back on some of the details of the new Senate bill,” Kyle Schmauch said. “Matt’s position throughout this process has been that Obamacare repeal needs to reduce costs, improve access, and give Montana more flexibility to meet the needs of our citizens.