Tester seeks input on Obamacare

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Jon Tester

Has the Affordable Care Act made your life better? If so, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., wants to know.

Tester has set up a website to gather input from Montanans about what the ACA, better known as Obamacare, has done for them. The goal is to thwart plans by Republicans to repeal the law once Donald Trump takes office as president.

“I know our healthcare system isn’t perfect,” Tester said in a news release. “We still have a lot of work to do to make it more affordable for working families and to hold insurance and drug companies accountable. But repealing all the progress we’ve made without a plan to cover Montana families is reckless and irresponsible.”

According to a fact sheet distributed by Tester’s office, 152,000 Montanans with pre-existing conditions could lose health insurance if Obamacare is repealed. Another 61,000 Montanans who obtained insurance through Medicaid expansion provisions of Obamacare also could lose insurance, and 44,000 people who were receiving federal subsidies to buy insurance could lose those subsidies. About 7,000 people under age 26 who have been insured under their parents’ plan also could lose coverage.

In addition, the fact sheet asserts, community health centers that serve more than 100,000 Montanans could lose 70 percent of their funding. Record low numbers of Americans, both in Montana and nationwide, now lack health insurance, but repeal could end that.

In an editorial on Friday, the Billings Gazette called on Montana’s congressional delegation to oppose repeal of Obamacare until a replacement plan is enacted. Even state House Speaker Austin Knudsen, R-Culbertson, has warned of the consequences of repealing Obamacare without an alternative plan.

U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., and U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., both have been staunch opponents of the Affordable Care Act. Among complaints about the bill is that rates have risen dramatically in the last two years for people who make too much money to qualify for subsidies and who do not have insurance through employers.

But there is some evidence that rate hikes may begin to moderate. Insurance company revenues through Obamacare exchanges are expected to rise by a third next year, which could ease fears that the exchanges are in a “death spiral” in which rising rates drive people out of the marketplace, forcing rates to rise even more.

At the same time, doubts continue to surface about Republican alternatives to the ACA, including expanded health savings accounts.

By winning both houses of Congress and the presidency, Republicans have gotten what they wished for. They had better be careful.

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