Tester on new GOP health care bill: "It may be the worst"

by MTN News, Ken Luetzen

MISSOULA – Republican U.S. senators are pushing forward with their latest plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The proposed plan comes from Sen. Bill Cassidy from Louisiana and Sen. Lindsey Graham from South Carolina.

Under a procedural rule, Republicans only need 50 votes to pass the new proposed health care plan. However, the deadline for this is coming up quickly on Sept. 30. After that date, supporters of the bill would need 60 votes, meaning they would need help from Democrats.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., said this quick push to pass the bill is very concerning.

“I can tell you there is a lot of pressure being applied to senators trying to get them to vote for this bill, even though it may be the worst of the four bills we’ve looked at now,” Tester said.

Tester said the GOP bill would kick people off of their health plans, raise rates, threaten coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and strain veterans’ care in Montana.

The president of the Montana Hospital Association, Dick Brown, agreed with Tester, saying that the bill would “jeopardize many lives that are covered today.”

“First of all there is no requirement on the states, if the money comes in a lump fund… There is no requirement for them to put it in coverage,” Brown said. “For a lot of state budgets, like Montana worrying about other areas… there may be money distributed in directions that would not support what we are trying to accomplish with coverage.”

Another major concern for Tester is the caps and cuts of federal funding for Medicaid, a move he says threatens rural hospitals, nursing homes and care for disabled children.

“If you are great big hospital and you have volume you might be able to survive this,” Tester said. “But if you are not, if you’re like a Cut Bank or a Roundup or a Big Sandy or a Chester, you’re not going to have that volume and if that charity care goes up, it’s going to put you at risk of closure.”

Tester said he joins a bipartisan group of governors from across the country that oppose the GOP bill, including Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, a fellow Democrat.

Montana’s junior senator, Republican Steve Daines, has yet to weigh in on the latest proposal. Neither has the state’s lone member of Congress, Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte.