Tester says companion bill on health care should pass

The Great Falls Tribune

by Ledyard King

WASHINGTON — Sen. Jon Tester heartily endorsed the landmark health care measure President Obama signed Tues¬day and said he would support a companion bill that makes adjustments to the new law.

Speaking to reporters by phone Wednesday, the Mon¬tana Democrat dismissed criti¬cism from Republicans, includ¬ing Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., that the health care leg¬islation is “radical” and will lead to higher costs for consumers, less choice for patients and deeper federal debt.

“The reform law is tough on insurance companies,” Tester said. “It makes insurance and health care more affordable. It saves our country and taxpay¬ers a significant amount of dough, and it makes Medicare stronger. It’s going to be a huge step forward for Montana fami¬lies.”

The landmark bill would expand coverage to millions of people, primarily by expanding Medicaid for the poor, provid¬ing subsidies for private insur¬ance and creating tax credits for small businesses that insure their employees.

Most people would be required to buy insurance under the bill, and larger employers would have to offer it or face a penalty.

Insurers can’t reject cus¬tomers with pre-existing health conditions or impose lifetime limits on benefits under the bill. There will be no government¬run “public” insurance option, which was in the House ver¬sion, and illegal immigrants can’t use either subsidies or their own money to buy insur¬ance on newly created health insurance exchanges.

Before Rehberg voted against the bill Sunday, he predicted that it would lead to “a lot of unanticipated, unintended con¬sequences” that would hurt Americans.

Although the overall bill was passed, the Senate is taking up a “reconciliation” bill that would make adjustments to the new law, including making it cheap¬er for people to buy insurance and for employers to cover workers.