NBC Montana: Tester resolution aims to stop ACA repeal efforts, delegation weighs in

by Maritsa Georgiou

MISSOULA, Mont. – Sen. Jon Tester introduced a Senate resolution Tuesday, joined by all 44 other Democratic senators and both independent senators, calling on the Department of Justice to stop its efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Last week, the Trump administration and 18 Republican attorneys general filed a brief asking the Supreme Court to dismantle the ACA. The brief points to the decision by Congress to eliminate the tax penalty for not having insurance. Because of that, it argues the entire law should come down, including the rules regarding insurance companies not being allowed to deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions.

If the Supreme Court agrees, it would mean 20 million Americans would lost insurance coverage, and Tester says that translates into 112,000 Montanans.

“In the middle of a global pandemic where everybody needs insurance and health care now more than ever, we’ve got Bill Barr and the Department of Justice advocating to the Supreme Court to throw the ACA out and throw out all the benefits the ACA has,” Tester told NBC Montana in a one-on-one interview. “So I’ve got a resolution that is asking — if we can get it passed through the Senate — asking Bill Barr, ‘No, you shouldn’t be fighting to undo our health care, you should be doing something to make it stronger.'”

Tester says the ACA isn’t perfect, but he would like to make changes through Congress, like reducing costs, without kicking people off insurance during a pandemic and starting from zero.

Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte agrees with a legislative approach. A spokesperson for his office said, “Greg thinks a legislative approach to fixing our broken health care system is the way to go, which is why he’s been working to protect people with pre-existing conditions, reduce costs and preserve rural access to care as he’s served Montana in Congress.”

A spokesperson for Republican Sen. Steve Daines said, “Obamacare was disastrous for Montana and increased the costs of premiums for Montanans through the roof. Premiums on the individual market more than doubled in Montana under Obamacare — about a 133% increase. Sen. Daines supports whatever mechanism will protect Montanans from this failed law, lower health care costs, protect those with pre-existing conditions and expand access to health care for Montanans.”

It’s expected the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the president’s challenge to the ACA sometime this fall.

NBC Montana reached out to both candidates for Montana’s next attorney general. Democratic candidate Raph Graybill released a statement that said, “If this dangerous lawsuit is successful, insurance companies could deny life-saving medical care to the over 429,000 Montanans with pre-existing conditions. My opponent supports it. I’ll stop it and put Montana families over the profits of insurance companies.”

Republican candidate Austin Knudsen’s campaign said, “Obamacare has been a train wreck for our state since it passed, leading to higher premiums and fewer health choices for many Montanans. We need leaders who can stand up to bad policy and support the people of this state, not politicians who take whatever position they believe will help them most in their next election.”