Great Falls Tribune – May 31, 2017
Congressman-elect Greg Gianforte said Tuesday he remains opposed to the American Health Care Act of 2017 now working its way through Congress, saying a better program is needed.
“Greg believes we need to repeal and replace Obamacare with an affordable solution that will protect Montanans with pre-existing conditions, lower premiums and preserve rural access,” his spokesman Shane Scanlon said.
The comment comes less than a week after the Republican high-tech entrepreneur from Bozeman was charged with misdemeanor assault after an incident with a reporter from The Guardian who had asked him for his views on the health care bill.
The question came on May 24, the same day the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Commission on Taxation released their report on ACHA, also known as House Resolution 1628.
On Thursday, Gianforte defeated Democrat Rob Quist and Libertarian Mark Wicks and won the race for the seat vacated by Republican Ryan Zinke, who became President Donald Trump’s secretary of the interior.
Gianforte’s spokesman said he had not changed his mind about the bill.
“Greg opposed the bill before and after seeing its impact he remains opposed,” Scanlon said.
He said Gianforte favors a program that allows people to buy insurance across state lines to increase competition and improve options, gives more flexibility in how packages are structured to allow Montanans to select health care plans that best meet their needs and addresses rising prescription drug prices and frivolous lawsuits that drive up health care costs.
HR 1628, according to the Congressional Budget Office study, would reportedly leave 23 million more Americans without insurance by 2026 and leave others who have costly medical conditions with coverage that may be unaffordable.
It also would leave 51 million people under age 65 uninsured.
Tom Price, the Health and Human Services secretary, said the Congressional Budget Office report was inaccurate, noting they were wrong when they estimated the Affordable Care Act’s effect on cost and coverage.
However, the report estimates that enacting HR 1628 would reduce the cumulative federal deficit over the 2017-2026 period by $119 billion.
Premiums on average would fall compared with the current Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, but that would be partly because policies would typically provide fewer benefits, said the report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
Heather O’Loughlin, co-director of the Montana Budget and Policy Center, wrote in a guest opinion piece for the Tribune in Tuesday’s paper that the bill, if enacted, would bring a “shift of more than $3 billion in Medicaid costs to Montana, which we know our state cannot afford.
O’Loughlin noted that more than 240,000 Montanans receive Medicaid, those include children, seniors and people with disabilities.
On Tuesday, the Budget and Policy Center released a report stating the proposal would hit rural Montana harder.
The report notes that more than 77,000 low-income Montanans have enrolled in Medicaid expansion and 48 percent live outside of the state’s largest urban areas.
The report claims the plan does not take geographic region and income into account, saying rural Montanans will see costs increase more than those in urban areas.
They find Montana’s rural communities tend to be older and sicker. As an example, they state a 60-year-old Choteau man with an income of $30,000 would get nearly $8,140 less in tax credits than what he now gets under the proposal, They claim his insurance would be $13,170 more than under the current Affordable Care Act.
“The House-passed health care bill puts the health of rural Montanans and our communities in jeopardy,” the report states
Gov. Steve Bullock last week criticized Republican leaders in Congress for the proposal, calling it “a half-baked and heartless proposal that would increase health care costs and throw thousands of Montanans off their insurance.”
“People’s lives are on the line,” he said. “Congress needs to focus on solutions that will increase quality of care and drive down costs for hard-working families across the country instead of giving tax cuts to millionaires and drug companies.”