Guest Column

Getting to Work on Health Care

I’m going to carefully scrutinize the U.S. Senate proposal to determine if it secures the right outcomes for Montanans

Last week, I hosted my 17th Telephone Town Hall to get your input on the health care draft proposal to repeal and replace Obamacare. The draft bill was released on Thursday, June 22, and I immediately posted the text on my website for all Montanans to read. I dug into this legislation myself and looked forward to hearing the thoughts of Montanans as we considered this important issue together.

While there is an effort to move legislation out of the Senate, I’ve been urging my colleagues to get this legislation right — my dad taught me that it is better to measure twice and cut once. We have a real opportunity to help the American people and I’m optimistic that we can find a solution that addresses the failings of our current health care system.

As I travel across all 56 counties, I hear story after story about Montanans’ experiences with health care. The countless meetings I’ve had with families, health-care providers, pharmacists, small business owners, labor unions and tribes about health care are too numerous to count. And sadly, I have heard countless horrible stories about how Obamacare has hurt hardworking Montana families.

It pains me to get emails like the ones that shared how one Montanan family was nearly forced to sell their home to pay for insurance and how another had doubling insurance premiums. This isn’t acceptable.

It has been seven years since the Democrat-controlled Congress and Obama administration signed into law the so-called Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known by most as “Obamacare.” This law’s promises to bring health care costs down and preserve current doctor-patient relationships were proven false almost immediately.

President Obama said, “You’ll find more choices, more competition, and in many cases, lower prices…” Going on four years later, insurers are leaving the market and premiums are rising.  In 2017, one-third of all counties across the nation had just one insurer. And in Montana alone, insurance premiums have risen 133 percent from 2013 to 2017. To make matters worse, insurers are already beginning to ask for permission to raise individual market premiums for 2018.

Without insurers, no one has access to health insurance, including those with pre-existing conditions.

Obamacare has created a train wreck with thousands of pages of legislation. Montanans have made it clear in election after election that they want to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a health care system that provides more affordable choices, protects those with pre-existing conditions and puts Medicaid on a sustainable path. With your input, I’m going to carefully scrutinize this proposal to determine if it secures these outcomes for Montanans.

Steve Daines is a Republican U.S. senator from Montana.