Tester, Daines on opposing sides of health care debate

By Martin Kidston/Missoula Current

Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines took opposing stances on the future of the Affordable Care Act late Wednesday, with Daines pushing for a repeal and Tester warning that such action would hurt Montanans.

The U.S. Senate voted 51-48 along party lines as Republicans began their effort to dismantle the landmark health care law. Daines voted for repeal while Tester opposed it. You can watch their arguments here.

“Obamacare is in a death spiral and today we took a monumental step toward repealing it,” Daines said. “This is great news for Montanans and great news for America.”

Earlier this month, the Montana Budget and Policy Center said that as many as 142,000 Montanans could lose their health insurance if Congress and the incoming Trump administration make good on their promise to repeal the 7-year-old health care law.

The 61,000 Montanans who gained health care through the state’s Medicaid expansion are at the greatest risk, the policy center suggested.

The House is expected take action on the resolution as early as Friday. That could prompt congressional committees to begin crafting a second bill that would roll back major parts of the ACA.

“I urge my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to work with us and stop using scare tactics – accept reality that Obamacare is fundamentally flawed and needs to be replaced,” Daines said. “Let’s keep the momentum going and move on replacement.”

Tester, however, has fought to make improvements to the existing law. He held eight health care listening sessions across the state last week and, on Thursday morning, he outlined the impacts that repealing the ACA would have on Montana families.

“The folks in Congress who are pushing to repeal without a replacement will kick families off of their health insurance, close down rural hospitals and clinics, and add $9 trillion to our debt,” Tester said.  “Rather than go down this dangerous path, let’s roll up our sleeves and work on a bipartisan solution that will increase access to insurance, bring down the cost of care, and lower prescription drug prices.”

Tester is soliciting comments from Montanans regarding their personal heath care stories.

“Here is what that will look like in Montana,” Tester said.  “152,000 Montanans with pre-existing conditions will be at risk of losing their health insurance; 61,000 Montanans enrolled in Medicaid will lose coverage; Montana seniors will lose help paying for their prescription drugs; and women will lose important protections that prevent them from being charged more for coverage than men.”

Contact reporter Martin Kidston at info@missoulacurrent.com