Tester explains concerns with Republican's health care proposal

by Bill Vander Weele, Sidney Herald

Because he is concerned that many Americans will lose their health care, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., said he can’t support the current proposal by Republicans for health care coverage.

Tester, during a conference call with the media, noted that he has often said that accessible and affordability are the two most important elements in a health care proposal to replace Obamacare.

“I don’t think it meets that,” Tester said. He added an independent report states that millions of people in the country will lose their health coverage under the plan. “That’s not improving access.”

The senator is also concerned that only wealthy people can maintain their coverage for pre-existing conditions through “high-risk pools.” Tester said, “If you have money, you can get your pre-existing conditions covered. If you don’t, it’s a problem.”

He added some hospitals are worried that their charity care will need to increase. “It puts small hospitals in danger of closing,” Tester said.

The senator said he’s hopeful that the bill changes so it provides more access to residents.

During the conference call, Tester announced bipartisan legislation to update Montana’s aging rural drinking and wastewater systems. The Rural Community Clean Water Technical Assistance Act will provide rural water systems that serve fewer than 10,000 residents with technical assistance to ensure drinking and wastewater infrastructure meets important safety guidelines.

“Rural communities can’t survive without access to clean water,” Tester said.

The bill will provide rural water systems with $15 million over five years for technical assistance and upgrades, which will bring drinking and wastewater infrastructure into compliance with current federal and state safety guidelines. States can use up to 2 percent of a revolving fund to provide technical assistance for rural wastewater treatment facilities.

The senator was pleased to announce that the House Veterans Affairs’ Division passed his bill to improve the VA Choice Program.

“This is an important first step in fixing the Choice Program in Montana and streamlining veterans’ access to care in their communities,” Tester said. “I’m pleased that this legislation passed through the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee with bipartisan support, and I look forward to working with House and Senate leadership to bring it to the floor for consideration.”