Montana Governor, U.S. Senators Criticize Republican Health Care Plan

"We need to do better," U.S. Sen. Steve Daines said in a statement in response to the recent CBO report

By Associated Press
U.S. Sens. Jon Tester, right, and Steve Daines speak about the North Fork Watershed Protection Act alongside Michael Jamison, with the National Parks Conservation Association, on Aug. 24, 2015. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

HELENA – Montana’s Republican U.S. senator joined the state’s top Democrats in criticizing the Republican health care plan Monday after a nonpartisan analysis showed the legislation would lead to millions losing their coverage and insurance premiums continuing to rise over the next several years.

The Congressional Budget Office report said 14 million Americans would lose health care coverage next year under the Republican legislation, and 24 million by 2026.

Insurance premiums would rise until 2020, but end up lower compared to premiums under President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act by 2026, according to the analysis.

“We need to do better,” U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Montana, said in a statement in response to the CBO report. “I want to see costs and premiums go down to make health care more affordable for Montana families.”

Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock said the CBO analysis shows the GOP health proposal would be a “troubling step backwards.”

“Ripping health care away from thousands of Montanans, cutting off the lifeline to our hospitals, and keeping our taxpayer dollars back in Washington, D.C., is a sucker-punch to rural states like Montana,” Gov. Steve Bullock said in a statement.

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, called the Republican bill reckless and said Congress should work together to improve the Affordable Care Act instead of dismantling it.

State-by-state breakdowns detailing projected coverage losses were not immediately available. Bullock spokeswoman Ronja Abel said the governor’s budget office was analyzing the report and the potential impact to the state.

Montana’s uninsured rate has fallen from 22 percent to 7 percent since the Affordable Care Act became law. Much of that came when the state expanded Medicaid in 2015, and 71,000 people now have health coverage through that program.

The Republican health proposal would seek to cap federal spending on Medicaid expansion, eliminate subsidies for others and eliminate the mandate that people purchase coverage.

The effect would be to reduce federal deficits by $337 billion over the next decade. Montana Securities and Insurance Commissioner Matthew Rosendale, a Republican, is encouraged by the positive effect on the federal budget, but is concerned about improving health care access and lowering costs, spokesman Kyle Schmauch said.

“Matt has been supporting legislation at the state level that can help improve access to health care and lower costs regardless of what action the federal government takes,” Schmauch said.

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