Next week Congress returns to work after enjoying a European-style five-week summer recess vacation. Members will work for a couple weeks, then recess again for another week. Congress is scheduled to work 125 days in session this year.
The U.S. House has voted 50 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act. But defunding Obamacare became summertime recess rhetoric for opponents of the subsidized health insurance programs that serve millions of Americans.
Under Obamacare, a single person earning $15,000 per year qualifies for a $184 per month transferable tax credit to apply toward the cost of buying private health insurance. Total personal out of pocket cost for health insurance is $23 per month.
Since the GOP-controlled Montana Legislature refused $1 billion in federal Medicaid money earlier this year, workers at poverty wages or less will not be eligible for health care tax subsidies come January.
A single person earning less than $11,450 annually is ineligible for Obamacare tax credit money to help pay for mandated health insurance. For working poor Montanans aged 25 years, out of pocket cost for personal health insurance is still $169 per month.
Next year’s health insurance tax credits won’t be affected by the defunding rhetoric heard from Republicans. Tax credits lower the amount of federal dollars that are collected from certain taxpayers. Tax credits remain essentially funded until the law is changed. There is no funding needed, it’s already the law.
The national Republican defunding rhetoric targets some of the same money used for poverty programs like Medicaid, which the state Republicans in the Legislature refused to accept earlier this year.
Last week after a Bigfork fundraiser and breakfast in Whitefish, Speaker of the House John Boehner said that he would seek resolution to keep from shutting down government over reforms like Obamacare.
Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester helped pass the health care law. Baucus was in Libby recently ensuring that the provisions in Obamacare that he enabled serve the community. Baucus said, “I want to make sure the people of Libby get justice.”
Both Tester and Baucus continue to assure that public health clinics in places like Kalispell gratefully remain open.
Less clear is what Rep. Steve Daines will do to fix health care. Daines has already voted for repeal.
House leadership would undoubtedly like to see Daines run for reelection to preserve their small majority in the House. Daines is considering a run for an open seat in the Senate when Baucus retires after four decades of service.
During recess, Daines traveled to Israel with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor to promote Flathead-made weaponry and learn about security. Then the speaker headlined Daines’ Flathead fundraiser.
In one of Daines’ first votes, he sided against leadership and opposed funding for climate disaster relief from super storm Sandy. But on health care politics, as the Farm Bill, Daines has consistently voted with leadership.
Daines is the Montana Republicans best hope of ousting Democrats from Baucus’ Senate seat. But that’s also Sen. Mike Mansfield’s seat. Mansfield mentored Baucus on the politics of patience and compromise.
If Daines wants Baucus’ seat, he won’t win by voting with ideologues on policies to defund Obamamcare or repeal health care tax credits that keep out-of-pocket insurance costs low for thousands of Montanans.
Republicans should help Montana citizens learn how to take better advantage of the sizable health care tax credits under Obamacare.
Republicans won’t win a majority in the Senate and could well lose control of the House unless they embrace moderate policy fixes to health care, fund food stamp during high unemployment and reform immigration.
Montanans deserve another productive problem solver like Baucus or Mansfield in the next Congress to resolve the political differences that continue to divide America.
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