Too often, policy debates in Washington, D.C. devolve into partisan fistfights. Each side becomes so focused on landing a punch that they forget why they climbed into the ring in the first place.
Just a few years ago, one in five Montanans did not have access to health insurance, and people couldn’t afford to get sick.
When we passed health care reform, we took a big step forward, and today, more Montanans have access to health care than ever before.
But the current health care system is not perfect, and there are still folks in Montana who are struggling to pay expensive premiums and high deductibles.
I have heard that message from Plentywood to Libby and everywhere in between as I travel the state holding face-to-face town halls, listening sessions and public events.
I know that in order to bring down the cost of health care we need to do something and do something now, but the Senate health care proposal that was unveiled last week is not the answer.
This partisan bill imposes a tax on folks in their 50s and 60s, and rips health care away from 22 million Americans and tens of thousands of Montanans.
It kicks nearly 80,000 Montanans off Medicaid, many of whom are children and young families who now have health insurance for the first time.
It threatens coverage for folks with pre-existing conditions like high-blood pressure and diabetes.
It could bring back the days of lifetime caps when folks paid for health insurance their entire lives, but were booted off when they needed coverage the most.
The bill fails to address the very issue Montanans need us to tackle: the rising cost of health care. And it ignores families who are facing another round of premiums hikes next year.
But it doesn’t ignore the wealthiest Americans who will see $541 billion in tax breaks. If this bill passes, working families will pay more money for less coverage, while millionaires and big corporations walk away with fatter wallets.
While some elected officials continue to prioritize scoring political points, I still remember why I got in the ring—to fight for Montana.
I am willing to sit down with Republicans, Democrats, Independents, and Libertarians and come up with a solution that keeps what’s working in our current health care system and improves where it falls short.
I am optimistic that we can pass a good health care bill that works for every Montanan, but this will only happen if it is done in a bipartisan transparent way with input from folks of all walks of life.
The final vote on the disastrous Senate health care bill was delayed this week because thousands of Montanans raised their voices together.
Now it is time to throw in the towel on partisan bickering, and start fighting for what really matters.
Jon Tester is a farmer from Big Sandy, Montana and Montana’s senior U.S. Senator.