Give Us a Break

Montana is lucky our Legislature chose to expand Medicaid, accepting the billions in federal health care dollars for our citizens

By Mike Jopek

Over the years, I’ve spent time visiting people in local hospitals. The Flathead has some of the best nurses, doctors and staff. These professionals are knowledgeable, courteous and attentive.

Montana is lucky our Legislature chose to expand Medicaid, accepting the billions in federal health care dollars for our citizens.

Look, I get it. It’s not fun to think about health care funding.

It’s summer, it’s hot, and most folks would rather share strong opinions about things like whether yogurt makes real ice cream or if a car with a small block engine can run circles around a big block, all day long.

Health care matters and everyone knows it’s important, even if we ignore our own common sense.

Republicans should abandon their go-it-alone approach. It won’t help anyone in the short or long term.

Current federal funds provide health care to thousands of local neighbors living in our rural towns and communities. These federal funds flowing into our rural hospitals have significantly reduced the need for charity care and free health care clinics.

Before current law allocated federal funds toward local health care, it was common that those who couldn’t afford insurance use local emergency rooms.

That uncompensated care was paid for by increased premiums on the rest of us with insurance and local charity. It wasn’t sustainable. Yet Senate Republicans seem intent on returning America back to those days.

It’s weird. I hope they have a change of heart.

A trillion dollars funding cut over the decade is a lot of lost health care.

Last week Senate Republicans introduced their next partisan health care bills. The Congressional Budget Office will score them as Congress stumbles forward.

Republicans like Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Greg Gianforte should abandon this go-it-alone health care approach. What the nation needs is a bipartisan fix to addresses the underlying reasons for health care and health insurance costs.

A leading national health care proponent, the Kaiser Family Foundation, released a poll indicating that 71 percent of Americans, including 91 percent of Democrats, 72 percent of Independents and 41 percent of Republicans, want Republicans to work with Democrats and fix current law.

It’s time for moderate Republicans and Democrats to stand up and be heard.

Sen. Jon Tester has been barnstorming Montana talking to people, hospitals, and organizations about health care. He’s indicated numerous times his willingness to work with Republicans toward reasonable fixes.

It’s pure politics that Republicans like Daines or Gianforte won’t work with Democrats on health care.

With Republicans’ current bills, they’ve held zero public health care hearings in Washington, D.C.  And it’s not like Republicans are holding face-to-face townhalls in the state of Montana.

Just about every health care organization in Montana is publicly telling Republicans to leave Medicaid funding alone.

It’s easy to guess why even Montana’s Republican insurance commissioner, Auditor Matt Rosendale, is silent about federal funding levels for state-based Medicaid health care.

In the 2013 state Legislature, Rosendale voted against the bipartisan bill that failed to accept federal funds into our local communities and expand Medicaid. In 2015, when Montana accepted Medicaid funds, Rosendale again voted against the bipartisan bill.

America can stomach bipartisan health care fixes.

Start by keeping your congressional hands off Medicaid funding. Sure, properly reform, but fully fund this successful healthcare.

Consider a buy-in for closer-to-retirement workers into Medicare. We’ll help pay and our younger blood into this aged health care pool, will only help secure it’s future.

Some rural markets need stabilization, that’s normal.

The current tax credits offered for working people who purchase absurdly expensive health insurance should be dramatically increased and the income eligibility requirements should be broadened.

Get a grip Congress, even a farmer like me can figure some of this stuff out. Oh, and I liked the 283 short block and think creamy milk ice cream is more real.

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