Voices: Outcome of governor’s race will determine Montana health care

Cora Newman

One week after the November election, the Supreme Court will decide the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Health care for 112,000 Montanans hangs in the balance, not to mention the 429,000 Montanans with pre-existing conditions whose protections could be stripped away. Our rural health structure is now under renewed threat – the lifeline that Medicaid expansion provided could be cut on moment’s notice.

As health care leaders, the uncertainty surrounding Montanans’ access to quality, affordable health care is deeply troubling.

Which is why we were so glad to see Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney step up to the plate and put forward a plan for what he’d do as Governor to protect Montanans’ access to health care, even if the ACA and Medicaid expansion are eliminated.

If elected, Cooney has pledged to codify critical protections offered by the Affordable Care Act into state law, like protecting Montanans with pre-existing conditions from being denied coverage or forced to pay higher rates. Cooney also laid out a plan to prohibit annual or lifetime caps on coverage, and to make sure that essential health benefits like ambulatory care, mental health care, substance use disorder services, and maternity and newborn care remain covered by insurance.

Let us be very clear: the Supreme Court overturning the Affordable Care Act would be a disaster for Montanans.

Yet still, we have elected leaders like Congressman Greg Gianforte, who are trying their best to strip health care away from Montanans, even in the middle of a pandemic.

Greg Gianforte has vocally opposed the Affordable Care Act since he first entered politics. Gianforte called the landmark health care law “a disaster,” and he’s pledged to dismantle the ACA “piece by piece.”

Even more recently, Gianforte voted in support of the lawsuit to gut the ACA and Medicaid expansion, and he offered his unqualified support for President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, who if confirmed, is widely believed to be the final nail in the coffin of the ACA.

Congressman Gianforte’s insistence upon tearing health care away from Montanans in the midst of a pandemic is downright dangerous. If Gianforte and his DC allies manage to successfully overturn the ACA, Montanans will pay the price.

This November, Montanans will decide whether to elect a governor who is focused on protecting and expanding access to health care, or a fovernor who is actively trying to strip it away.

Unlike Gianforte, Mike Cooney has spent his entire career delivering results for Montanans and fighting to defend our health care. During the battle to reauthorize Medicaid expansion, Cooney visited nearly every rural hospital in the state. Thanks to Mike Cooney, nearly 1-in-10 Montanans have access to quality, affordable health care.

Mike Cooney has proven that he’s the leader Montanans can count on to go to bat for our health care. Greg Gianforte has proven the opposite.

To protect access to quality health care for all Montanans, vote Mike Cooney this November.

Signed: Dr. Cora Neumann, public health advocate; Jacquie Helt, SEIU 775; Lora Wier, public health advocate and former public health nurse; Jane Smilie, health consultant; Dr. Greg Lind of Missoula; Kim Gillan, former state senator; Emily Colomeda, public health expert; and Emily Coyle, health consultant.